On January 11, 1973, Pakistan were chasing a paltry 159 to win against Australia on the fifth day at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) to restore some pride after losing the first two Tests of the three-match series. Did they make it? Read on as Jaideep Vaidya provides the answer…
The Test match was evenly poised at the halfway stage – with Australia being bowled out for 334 after being put in to bat on a green pitch, following which Pakistan posted 360 on the board. However, as the home team began their second essay, they evidently did not brace themselves for a Saleem Altaf-Sarfraz Nawaz juggernaut.
The two-headed Pakistani pace monster ran through the Australian line-up, picking up eight wickets as the hosts were bowled out for 184. The damage could have been worse had John Watkins and Bob Massie not combined for an 83-run ninth-wicket stand after Australia were tottering at 101 for eight. Left with just 159 to chase for a morale-boosting win following a tough series, Pakistan reached 48 for two at stumps on Day Four.
Zaheer Abbas calmly took the visitors’ score forward on the final day and was on 47 when he was scalped by Dennis Lillee. At 83 for four, you would have still fancied Pakistan for the win given that Jeff Thomson was missing from the Australian bowling. Enter Max Walker.
Playing in just his second Test match after debuting at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in the preceding match, Walker was one of cricket’s handful wrong-footed bowlers. A right-handed swing bowler by trade, Walker used to run in and bowl with his left foot landing first, then right and then the left again. “I bowled right-arm over left earhole, legs crossed at the point of delivery,” was how he later described his bowling action to ESPNCricinfo.
“Tangles“, as he popularly came to be known as, tangled the Pakistanis as he ripped through the middle and lower order. The hapless visitors lost their next six wickets for just 23 runs as Walker recorded figures of 16-8-15-6. Pakistan were all-out for 106. At the expense of using a cliché, they had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory as Australia took the series 3-0.
Walker went on to label that spell of his as the defining moment of his cricketing career. “After this I knew I belonged in Test cricket alongside Lillee, (Geoff) Marsh, the Chappells (Ian and Greg) and company. I didn’t hope I would take wickets any more … I knew.”
To the uninitiated, Walker had begun his sporting career as a player in the Australian Football League (AFL). However, he used to work in the maintenance department at the MCG and operated the historic scoreboard. This was when he got into cricket and idyllically made his debut there.
Walker played a total of 34 Tests for Australia, taking 138 wickets at 27.47.
(Jaideep Vaidya is a multiple sports buff and a writer at CricketCountry. He has a B.E. in Electronics Engineering, but that isn’t fooling anybody. He started writing on sports during his engineering course and fell in love with it. The best day of his life came on April 24, 1998, when he witnessed birthday boy Sachin Tendulkar pummel a Shane Warne-speared Aussie attack from the stands during the Sharjah Cup Final. A diehard Manchester United fan, you can follow him on Twitter @jaideepvaidya. He also writes a sports blog - The Mullygrubber )