It was perhaps one of the most poorly-timed international tours in cricket when Australia flew down to Pakistan for a three-Test series in 1988. More than the cricket played on the tour, the memories are inclined towards the controversies that took place. It was the second consecutive series hosted by Pakistan that was on the receiving end of the criticisms regarding the pitch and standard of umpiring. The drama, off the field, was about the fans, who still savouring Pakistan’s success over West Indies earlier that year, cribbed about Imran Khan’s decision to pull out from the series.
The series was scheduled to be played in September and October and Imran Khan chose not to play as a protest against the timing of the series. According to him, the weather in Pakistan at that time of the year was too hot for cricket. During the 1982-83 Australia’s tour of Pakistan, Australian Manager, Colin Egar, expressed the same views after his side went 3-0 down against Imran Khan’s Pakistan. Egar had said then that he would recommend that future Australian sides visited the Indian sub-continent at a less inappropriate time of the year.
The history seemed to repeat itself as Egar was back again with the Australian side, as their manager, in Pakistan in the same unsuitable time of the year.
Good cricket amidst the drama
While the series began amidst all this, both the teams would soon witness some excellent brand of cricket. Australians liked it or not, that would be from Pakistan’s Captain Javed Miandad. Pakistan won the toss and Miandad opted to bat first. While Australia had a new wicketkeeper in debutant Ian Healy, Pakistan’s regular openers Mudassar Nazar and Rameez Raja walked in to open the innings. Australian pacer Bruce Reid opened the bowling on a dry and grass-less pitch, that seemed to have nothing for the fast bowlers.
Despite the poor pitch, Reid dismissed Mudassar on the second ball of the day before he sent back Rameez when Pakistan had just 21 runs on the board. Little did Reid and Australia know, the early breakthroughs that gave them a reason to smile on otherwise a dull day for them, would turn on to be favourable for the hosts.
Miandad and the one-down batsman Shoaib in the next 279 minutes piled up a fine 196 runs for the third-wicket stand and there the tables began to turn around in the match. Before the first day ended, Shoaib reached his half-century off 122 balls and eventually his defence was broken by Steve Waugh. Shoaib walked off with an excellent score of 94 and the 241-ball and 319-minute knock was inclusive of 15 boundaries.
At stumps on Day 1, Miandad had the night-watchman Tauseef Ahmed with him.
Next day, the Pakistani skipper, who was five runs away from a superb century, took the entire command on his hands. He was aided by the Australians too, who were termed as the worst-ever touring fielding side in Pakistan. Miandad had at least three lives and survived some confident lbw appeals. He first reached his 15th Test hundred and later in the second day, he recorded his fifth Test double ton – all his five tons had come against different sides. He scored his previous Test double hundreds against New Zealand, India and Sri Lanka.
Miandad batted for 590 minutes, faced 439 balls, and had passed Pakistan’s previous highest score against Australia (210 not out by Taslim Arif at Faisalabad in 1979-80). His innings included a six and 29 fours. Tauseef, who began the second day as the night-watchman went on to register his highest Test score of 35 off 82 balls. The man, who stood by Miandad after Shoaib’s dismissal was Salim Malik. But the latter took almost three hours over his 45 while adding 114 with Miandad for the fifth wicket.
Australian pacer Reid finally removed Miandad at 211 runs and gave Australia had a huge sigh of relief.
The frustration in the touring camp increased when it was their chance to bat in the Test. The conditions of the pitch were suitable for Pakistan’s Iqbal Qasim, who then demolished Australia’s top-order. In one spell he claimed 4 for 14 and by the close of play on the third day when Australia needed another 154 runs to avoid the follow-on. Following the day of rest, when Australia resumed the nightmare of batting on the allegedly doctored track, they managed to survive for next three hours. Left-handed Peter Taylor, testifying how spin bowling has to be countered, fought for more than five hours to get to his maiden Test fifty.
While Taylor remained not out, the team was bundled out for 165 and Miandad enforced the follow-on.
Considering the way Taylor had batted on the fourth day, he was promoted to open in the second innings where Australia were 304 runs behind. Taylor soon handed Aamer Malik with his first Test wicket before Australia were at a verge of an innings defeat at 66 for 5 at stumps of the fourth day. Inside a couple of hours in the final morning, Pakistan sealed the Test by an innings and 188 runs.
Australia’s manager Egar and Coach Bob Simpson went to the Pakistan Board officials’ room to lodge their protest. In a language, that offended the Pakistanis, the duo questioned decisions by Mahboob Shah, one of Pakistan’s more reliable umpires. He had stood in the previous year’s World Cup final when Australia beat England in Calcutta. The fact that Pakistan retained Mahboob for the second Test as well, the ties between Australia and Pakistan only turned sour on the tour.
The Karachi pitch, where the first Test was played, was so bad that the Australian Captain Allan Border considered discontinuing the tour.
Australia fought back well, despite the problems and drew the second Test. That revived the confidence in the touring party and now there seemed a hope of squaring off the series in the third Test. While there were enough tensions in the Australian camp off the field, they faced a huge blow when pacer Reid, who was their sole hope of winning the third Test, suffered a recurrence of the back trouble. The tall Western Australian left-armer, was outstanding as he spearheaded the attack and claimed 14 wickets in the series and troubled all the Pakistan batsmen.
Unfortunately for Australia, Reid could not bowl on the final day of the third Test. Also, since Pakistan was a better side of the two, the Test was drawn and Pakistan won the series 1-0.