The Pakistan cricket team applauds Mohammad Sami (centre) as they walk off the field at the conclusion of the first Test between New Zealand and Pakistan at Eden Park on March 12, 2001. Pakistan won by 299 runs with Sami taking home an 8 wickets on Test debut © Getty Images
On the morning of March 12, 2001 New Zealand collapsed in an extraordinary fashion against Pakistan at Auckland. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at an hour’s mayhem matched by few in history.
It was a morning matched by few in the history of Test cricket. The majority of the population back in Pakistan was possibly still in bed when the mayhem actually took place. The New Zealand supporters, on the other hand, had come to the ground prepared to witness a drab draw, and were too dumbfounded to react at a disaster that lasted for approximately an hour.
Let us go back in time to that autumn morning in New Zealand morning, then.
The first four days
Pakistan went into the Test sans four star players — Wasim Akram, Saeed Anwar, Inzamam-ul-Haq, and Shoaib Akhtar. They had three debutants in Mohammad Sami, Faisal Iqbal, and Imran Farhat. New Zealand also had a debutant in the form of James Franklin.
Stephen Fleming won the toss and elected to field on what was the first drop-in pitch used in New Zealand, probably based on the fact that Pakistan had been routed batting first by New Zealand A by an innings. After 20s from the top three batsmen and a fifty by Yousuf Youhana (later Mohammad Yousuf), Pakistan added an unbeaten 132 for the fifth wicket to finish the First Day at 270 for 4 with Younis Khan on 91 and the debutant Faisal on 42.
Both batsmen got out on their overnight scores as Daryl Tuffey and Chris Martin induced a collapse with 4 wickets each, and Pakistan collapsed to 342 with only captain Moin Khan producing some resistance with a hard-hit 36-ball 47 with eight boundaries.
After losing the openers with just a single run on the board (Mark Richardson became Sami’s maiden Test wicket), Mathew Sinclair and Stephen Fleming saw through the bowling till stumps. New Zealand ended the day at 65 for 2.
New Zealand lost Sinclair and Nathan Astle in quick succession early on day three, but Fleming added 111 with Craig McMillan to lead a fightback of sorts. Once Waqar removed McMillan for 54, a dent was created, and when from 217 for 5 New Zealand collapsed to 252 (Martin scored the inevitable duck), the tail being no match for Saqlain’s guile. Fleming scored 86, Adam Parore remained not out with 32, and Saqlain picked up 4 of the last 5 wickets while Sami took 3 on debut. Pakistan ended the third day on 98 for 3 after Farhat got out for a breezy 63.
The fourth day belonged entirely to Younis Khan. He added 79 with Youhana and an unbeaten 147 with Faisal. Moin declared the innings closed at 336 for 5 with Younis Khan left one short of a well-deserved 150 and Faisal on 52. Tuffey took 3 wickets, and New Zealand needed to score 431 for a victory (it would have been a world record if they had done it) or bat out four sessions to achieve a draw.
Richardson added 91 with Matthew Bell before the latter was run out. Night-watchman Paul Wiseman hung around, and New Zealand ended the day with 105 for 1 with Richardson on 59. They still needed 326 to win: even if they did not go for the chase (which was unlikely, given that they had sent a night-watchman), they would, in all probability, be able to salvage a draw — given the way Richardson and Bell had blunted the Pakistan attack.
The magical morning
Whatever chance was there for New Zealand attempting to chase down the target ended in the fourth ball of the day: Richardson played an uncharacteristic cover-drive in the air of Saqlain with no addition to his overnight score, and Farhat took a comfortable catch at short-cover. Sinclair walked out to join Wiseman.
Eight more overs passed in the morning without any major incident. It seemed that the initial storm had passed, and at 121 for 2, New Zealand looked to be on the way to recover. It was then that Moin handed the ball to Sami.
Sami was fast even by the high standards set by Pakistan bowlers over time. Additionally, he had been an apprentice to Wasim and Waqar Younis, and had mastered the art of reverse-swing even at the age of 20. Most importantly, he bowled with a nagging accuracy on the eventful morning.
With the last ball of the first over of his spell, Sami clean bowled Wiseman. The ball swung in at an unusual angle and crashed into Wiseman’s stumps. It did not dampen the spirit of the Kiwis, though: the night-watchman had done his job, and was not expected to bat for long. New Zealand still had a formidable batting line-up.
The wicket, however, was a serious boost to the debutant’s confidence. He tore in, bowling with the wind at a furious pace, troubling Sinclair and Fleming with his speed and reverse-swing. At the other end, Saqlain kept the batsmen guessing with his impeccable accuracy and mysterious varieties.
It wasn’t long before the next wicket fell. Sami bowled a short-pitched delivery that rose from the short-pitch length at an ominous pace. Sinclair went for the pull, but was too slow for it. The ball looped to Youhana, who fumbled with it before catching it at his second attempt. 126 for 4.
Astle took a single off Sami to avoid the pair. In the very next over, he was foxed by the flight of Saqlain, and hit one back to him. And then, despite playing well forward, Fleming was adjudged leg-before (correctly) to Saqlain. Parore walked out to join McMillan now.
McMillan struggled for a while, beaten by Sami’s pace and Saqlain’s craft. Then, after spending 31 torrid minutes, he got desperate, and hit Sami to Saqlain at mid-on, who stooped low to take a difficult catch. McMillan fell for a 20-ball duck — which brought Franklin to the crease.
Franklin was on a king pair on debut. The first ball he faced hit his pads, and he was probably close a heart-attack before the umpire turned the appeal down. Three balls later the Sami hit timber, and Franklin fell for a pair. Sami took his third wicket of the over and was on a hat-trick as he clean bowled Tuffey with the last ball of the over. The hat-trick never came. He would have to wait two more Tests to achieve that landmark.
Parore scampered for a leg-bye in the third ball of the Saqlain over, bringing Martin on strike. The inevitable happened: Martin could make out nothing of Saqlain’s next ball, and was clean bowled for a golden duck. From 121 for 2 New Zealand were bowled out for 131. The last 8 wickets fell for 10 runs in 62 minutes and 76 balls. What was more commendable that two of their champions — Waqar and Mushtaq Ahmed — did not play any role of significance in the Test.
The spectators were stunned. They had expected New Zealand to bat out the day. They had never expected the team to fold before lunch. The last five batsmen had failed to score; the only occasion till date since West Indies’ capitulation against Fazal Mahmood and Nasim-ul-Ghani at Dacca in 1958-59. It also remains the second-lowest total amassed by the last eight wickets in the history of the game, the lowest being five — also by New Zealand — against Ernie Toshack and Bill O’Reilly at Wellington in 1945-46. New Zealand lost by 299 runs — their heaviest margin of defeat, beating the 297-run defeat against Australia at the same ground in 1973-74.
Sami had figures of 7-3-7-5 on the final morning to go with Saqlain’s 12.4-10-3-4. In all, Saqlain returned figures of 25.4-12-24-4, while Sami went a tad better with 15-4-36-5 in an amazing display of menacing pace, relentless accuracy, and unfathomable reverse-swing. It also won him the Man of the Match award on his Test debut, and came up with the understatement “I just bowled line and length” during the presentation.
A stunned Fleming confessed that “it was a pretty devastating spell of bowling”, and added “you have to admire the skills they possess in their side”. Richard Hadlee, the chairman of selectors, was forced to make four changes for the second Test at Christchurch.
Pakistan 346 (Younis Khan 91, Yousuf Youhana 51, Moin Khan 47, Faisal Iqbal 42; Daryl Tuffey 4 for 96, Chris Martin 4 for 106) and 336 for 5 declared (Younis Khan 149 not out, Imran Farhat 63, Faisal Iqbal 52 not out, Yousuf Youhana 42; Daryl Tuffey 3 for 43) beat New Zealand 252 (Stephen Fleming 86, Craig McMillan 54; Saqlain Mushtaq 4 for 48, Mohammad Sami 3 for 70) and 131 (Mark Richardson 59; Mohammad Sami 5 for 36, Saqlain Mushtaq 4 for 24) by 299 runs.
(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ovshake and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)