Home > Features > Moments in history >

Australia vs Pakistan 1999: When Justin Langer and Adam Gilchrist scripted The Great Escape at Hobart

When Langer and Gilchrist scripted The Great Escape at Hobart

Justin Langer (left) and Adam Gilchrist celebrate in the dressing room after turning a near-certain defeat into an unbelievable win against Pakistan at the Bellerive Oval on November 22, 1999 © Getty Images

Jaideep Vaidya recounts the happenings of a dreary day on November 22, 1999, at the Bellerive Oval, Hobart, when Australia’s Justin Langer and Adam Gilchrist joined hands in an epic final day’s battle against Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar and Saqlain Mushtaq to chase down 369 in the fourth innings. This, after ending the previous day reeling at 188 for five.

Australia had won the first Test of the three-match series at Brisbane by 10 wickets. A repeat was on the cards in the second Test at Hobart when Pakistan were bowled out for 222 in the first innings, after being put in to bat by Steve Waugh.

The Australian top order took them to 191 for one with Michael Slater, dropped three times, scoring 97. He had gotten a magnificent 169 in the first Test and looked on course for another big one when he top-edged Saqlain Mushtaq to mid-wicket going for a sweep. The wicket opened the floodgates as Australia lost the next nine wickets for 55 runs and had to settle for a paltry 24-run lead. Saqlain and his doosra-speared arsenal spun mayhem, taking six for 46 including three wickets in an over.

In the second innings, a buoyed Pakistan walloped their way to 392 all-out, riding on the big man Inzamam-ul-Haq’s 118. Shane Warne took five for 110, taking his match tally to eight wickets.

Australia now had to chase 369 in just over five sessions. Slater (27) and Greg Blewett (29) provided the hosts a brisk start before the former edged Shoaib Akhtar to fourth slip. Azhar Mahmood then took two in two to make it 81 for three, before Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting fell in quick succession for Australia to display 126 for five on the scoreboard with just under an hour to play on Day Four.

This brought Adam Gilchrist — he had made his debut earlier in the series at Brisbane — to the crease. At the non-striker’s end was Justin Langer, who was celebrating his 29th birthday and had an aggregate of just 1365 runs in 26 Tests at 33.29, including three hundreds and nine fifties. He was clearly not the best No 3 Australia had fielded and had been welcomed to the crease by a full-toss stinger from Akhtar hurled at his knuckles at 154.3kmph.

Langer and Gilchrist somehow made it through to stumps on Day Four with Australia still needing another 181 runs to win with half the side back in the pavilion. They were at the mercy of a so-so batsman and an aggressive, yet inexperienced, keeper who had scored 45 of the pair’s 62 runs.

Come Day Five, one would have expected Pakistan to go for the kill and level the series in the first session itself. But the Australian duo clearly had other plans.
The Great Escape begins

Langer, who would later come to be known as one of the most charismatic drivers of the cricket ball and an equally efficient cutter, used the two shots to perfection against the Pakistani quicks. Length balls were caressed to the cover boundary, while shorter deliveries were dispatched to the fence via elegant square cuts and late cuts. Some of the cover drives were timed to such perfection against Akhtar, who was constantly clocking upwards of 140, that it made him seem like a pedestrian gully-cricket medium-pacer. Langer was equally impressive against Saqlain as he exploited the area square of the wicket with his sweeps.

Gilchrist, meanwhile, knew that he had to stick it out with Langer until the end if Australia wanted to garner any hopes of winning the match. But Gilly, who had scored an 88-ball 81 on debut, wasn’t going to deviate from his natural game now. He brought up his fifty with a prance down the wicket against Waqar, driving him for three. The half-century came off just 72 balls (3×4, 1×6) and it was his second in three innings. After that, he began to sweep Saqlain like a veteran, before practicing his later-trademark back-footed heave over the deep mid-wicket fence. Soon, his natural aggressive game paid dividends as he forced Akram to have the field spread out, and Gilchrist still managed to find the gaps.

At one point, Gilchrist smacked Akram’s short and widish delivery to the deep point fence. The look on Akram’s face as he watched it crash into the hoarding was one of utter exasperation at himself and, to some extent, desperation. Gilchrist then brought about his first Test century with a beautiful straight drive off Waqar down to the long-off boundary. It had taken him just 110 balls and less than three hours, including eight fours and a six.

The duo scored at a good pace and went into lunch at 277 for five. The Pakistanis, who had almost taken the win for granted at the end of Day Four, were clearly showing nerves and getting frustrated now.

After lunch, Langer reached his fourth Test hundred with a shot that the Pakistanis had gotten used to in that innings – a deft sweep of Saqlain’s ball pitching outside off and angling away from the left-hander. The so-so batsman had proved that there was something in him; and just as if he still hadn’t proved a point, every hit to the fence as the Aussies inched closer to their target was followed by fist pumps towards the dressing rooms.

Then, with five runs needed to win, almost as if it were scripted, Langer was gone for 127 trying to execute the very shot that had earned him a chunk of his runs. He tried to sweep Saqlain to the square leg fence, but found the top edge and then Inzamam at square. Langer’s batting chart was filled with red lines, denoting boundaries, zipping through the deep point and third-man area. The wicket, for the Pakistanis, was of course purely academic.

But the man who truly snatched the game away from the visitors was a 28-year-old swashbuckling debutant, who would go on to rewrite the definition of a wicket-keeper batsman. Adam Gilchrist took the game away from Pakistan by going after their best bowler. Saqlain had tormented the Aussies in the first innings, taking six wickets including Gilly’s. But the southpaw displayed to the world for the first time his counter-attacking abilities and heaved Pakistan out of the game. The way he took apart Saqlain with his booming cover drives, clockwork sweeps and massive pulls over mid-wicket gave the world one of the first glimpses of what Adam Gilchrist was capable of. He got the scores level with an exquisite square cut that pierced the field and raced to the boundary, and he finished it off with a swipe over mid-on to the long-on fence. He had scored an unbeaten 149 off just 163 balls in his second Test, sprinkled with 13 fours and a massive heave over deep mid-wicket.


The Australians had pulled off what Richie Benaud, sitting in the commentary box, felt was “one of the finest victories I’ve ever seen in Test cricket.” They had registered, at the time, the third-highest fourth-innings total to win a Test match. Only three times before in the history of Tests had a total of above 350 been successfully chased. After this effort, it was to be done three more times in the next nine years, including a record chase of 418 by the West Indies against Australia at Antigua in 2003.

Langer and Gilchrist had thus given other teams the belief that such a mammoth total can be overcome and it was this belief that sparked Australia’s rise to the summit of world cricket in the following decade. It also gave to the cricketing world the one and only Adam Gilchrist. The rest, as they say, is history.

(JaideepVaidya is a multiple sports buff and Editorial Consultant at Cricket Country. 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 )

South Africa tour of Australia, 2014

Nov 23, 2014 (08:50 IST)   at Sydney

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 23, 2014 (12:00 IST)   at Chittagong

India tour of Australia 2014, Practice matches

Nov 24, 2014 (05:29 IST)   at Glenelg, Adelaide

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 24, 2014 (10:00 IST)   at Colombo

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Nov 26, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Sharjah

More

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 22, 2014  at Dambulla

Match abandoned without a ball being bowled

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 21, 2014  at Dambulla

Match abandoned without a ball being bowled

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 21, 2014  at Chittagong

Bangladesh won by 87 runs

South Africa tour of Australia, 2014

Nov 21, 2014  at Melbourne

Australia won by 3 wkts

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 20, 2014  at Dambulla

Match abandoned without a ball being bowled(Match rescheduled to 21/11/2014)

Photos

Australia vs South Africa, 3rd ODI at Canberra

Videos

SL vs Eng: Buttler practices wicketkeeping in nets

Live Cricket Score Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe 2nd ODI at Chittagong: Tamim Iqbal, Shakib al Hasan dismissed in quick succession

Live Cricket Score Vijay Hazare Trophy 2014-15 Odisha vs Punjab Semi-Final 2: Punjab lose Manan Vohra early

Live Cricket Score Vijay Hazare Trophy 2014-15 Bengal vs Karnataka Semi-Final 1: Bengal lose Arindam Das after openers post 50

Live Cricket Score Australia vs South Africa 2014, 5th ODI at Sydney: Australia’s target revised to 275 in 48 overs

India vs Australia 2014: How crucial are India’s practice games ahead of the first Test?

Australia Australia vs South Africa Australia vs South Africa 2014 India New Zealand New Zealand tour of UAE 2014 New Zealand vs Pakistan New Zealand vs Pakistan 2014 Pakistan Pakistan vs New Zealand Pakistan vs New Zealand 2014 South Africa South Africa tour of Australia 2014 South Africa vs Australia South Africa vs Australia 2014 Zimbabwe

Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe 2014: Bangladesh lose two quick wickets

Virat Kohli’s captaincy skills should not be judged by one Test: Mohammad Azharuddin

Anamul Haque reaches his half-century off 83 balls against Zimbabwe at Chittagong

Tamim Iqbal gets to his fifty off 72 balls against Zimbabwe at Chittagong

Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe 2014: Anamul Haque and Tamim Iqbal steady innings

ICC World Cup 2015: Australia in risk of overkill

Is Dhawal Kulkarni a contender for India’s ICC World Cup 2015 squad?

World Cup 1992: Arjuna Ranatunga masterminds first ever 300-plus ODI chase

India vs Australia 2014: How crucial are India’s practice games ahead of the first Test?

Rohit Sharma: India are serious contenders

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

681 Posts | 6 Fans

Video Highlights: Virat Kohli vs Australian cricketers

Watch Free Live Streaming & Telecast of Indian Super League (ISL) 2014 Football 37th Match between Kerala Blasters FC vs Atletico de Kolkata

PK Tharki Chokro making: Rancho aka Aamir Khan and Munna Bhai aka Sanjay Dutt shake legs to this folk number

Simbu-Hansika’s Vaalu slated for Christmas release!

Yeh Hai Mohabbatein: Will Raman and Ishita help Mihika with her plans?

Alibaba to launch its Taobao marketplace in international markets: Reuters

8 reasons to add rosemary to your diet

eBay India ‘Black Friday’ sale kicks off today

How many calories do bananas have?

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here