Pakistanis are back in business

Written by: Syed Saba Karim
Published: Monday, January 10, 2000, 0:00 [IST]
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Sunday's win again proved why Pakistan is rated as one of the most dangerous sides in world cricket. It is their unpredictability that makes them so lethal. They carved out a great victory against all odds.

The first meeting between Australia and Pakistan promised to be a keen affair and the crowd at the Gabba was not disappointed.

Pakistan were looking for revenge after the World Cup debacle and Test series loss. On Sunday, they came out rearing to go and pulled of a sensational victory.

Pakistan's spirit lifted when ICC top brass decided to allow Shoaib Akhtar to play the triangular series. What a great comeback for him.

Pakistan won the toss and decided to bat first on a wicket which was offering lot of bounce and lateral movement to the seamers. Wasim Akram believes in playing to his strength ie Pakistan's bowling, knowing fully well that the Gabba wicket provides lot of seam and swing under lights. He had no hesitation in batting first and his bowlers vindicated his decision with some good seam-bowling, aided by some injudicious shots by the Aussies.

Earlier, McGrath and Dale bowled a tight line and didn't give any width. With the pressure mounting, it was Andrew Symonds who induced Razzaq, Ejaj and Youhana to play some irresponsible shots. Their careless approach broke the back of Pakistan's middle-order and it was left to Moin, Wasim Akram and Saqlain Mushtaq to repair the damage.

Moin once again displayed his fighting skills and together with responsible knocks from Akram, Saqlain and a lovely cameo from Waqar Younus took Pakistan to a respectable total of 184.

The pick of the Australian bowlers was Andrew Symonds who notched up three wickets. Shane Warne went for runs but the crucial wicket of Inzamam and Moin proved useful. There is always a chance of collapse when a side is chasing a low score. But on Sunday, Pakistan came out with full zest to defend the target 184.

Wasim Akram and Waqar Younes bowled with lot of fire and were able to extract a lot of movement from the wicket. The change of ball lessened the movement and made batting look easy.

A square-cut from Gilchrist off Wasim Akram broke the shackles and one saw some breathtaking shots from Gilchrist and Ponting.

It was at this stage that Pakistan displayed their famous fighting spirit. With everything going for Australia, Pakistani bowlers initiated a dramatic comeback which sent Australia reeling. Abdul Razzaq and Shaoib Akthar together masterminded a great recovery for Pakistan and put them on the road to victory.

Razzaq doesn't generate lots of pace but his line-and-length is spot on and he gets a fair amount of movement from the wicket. He and Shoaib Akhtar demolished Australia's middle-order with some penetrative seam bowling.

The reception Shoaib Akhtar received when he came on to bowl was very touching. The crowd understood the trauma he has gone through and welcomed him with a great round of applause which was duly acknowledged by Akhtar. The ovation seemed to spur him on and he bowled fast and was accurate.

It is always a great sight to see Akhtar in full steam. Terrific atmosphere is generated and it is good for the game. His first over was instrumental in getting Pakistan back in the game. His two wickets off consecutive balls which consumed Ponting and Steve Waugh triggered the Australian collapse.

Michael Bevan displayed his customary grit, but had no support from the other end. The Australian middle-order could not cope with a sustained spell of good seam bowling.

Pakistan's top-order still looks very brittle. Their batting in the warm-up games has also not been up to the mark. Razzaq is normally used at number 3 to negotiate the new ball. In the World Cup, it was a huge success and it allowed the natural strokemakers to come out and play their shots, but here in Australia, under different conditions, Wasim Akram needs to be more flexible and will have to make some changes in the batting order.

Pakistan's strength lies in their bowling and the variation it offers. On Sunday they displayed their vigour and hunger for a win. Now they are back to their winning ways.

Warne's injury will be a big loss for Australia. This defeat should wake them up from their slumber. They are a very settled side and this early loss should make them very tough. Let's not forget World Cup 1999 when the Aussies came roaring back to win the Cup.

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