The second Test between Pakistan and Australia at Adelaide, that took place in the January of 1990, will forever be etched in Wasim Akram’s mind. Firstly, he collected a five-wicket haul that constrained the possibility of the hosts taking a huge first innings lead in response to Pakistan’s 257. Then, his heroics with the bat played a major role in arresting his side’s slide in the series, for they were beaten in the first Test at Melbourne by a healthy margin of 92 runs. Akram essayed a brilliant century on January 22, 1990, on the fourth day of the Adelaide Test, alongside Imran Khan, to steer Pakistan out of troubled waters.
An unpleasant situation
The visitors were on the backfoot right from the commencement of the tour. They were hammered in the first Test at Melbourne, and their batting department was found wanting yet again in the first innings of the second Test. Nevertheless, they crawled to 257. In response, Australia scored 341. Although they chalked out a lead of 84 runs, at one stage, it looked as though they would surpass 400 when Ian Healy and Dean Jones occupied the crease. But Akram’s timely interventions proved to be instrumental.
Pakistan’s start to the second innings was disastrous, but with Merv Hughes churning out one of the best spells of his career, there is little a batsman can do. Within an hour, Pakistan’s top four batsmen – Shoaib Mohammad, Rameez Raja, Saleem Yousuf and Ijaz Ahmed – were victims of Hughes’ pace, and the side was reeling at 22 for four. Javed Miandad and Imran Khan tried to remedy the situation; however, the former’s persistence came to an end after scoring 21.
In came Wasim Akram, with just six runs ahead and five wickets remaining, and little did anyone expect his innings to change the course of the game.
Maiden Test century
Akram scored his first runs of the match by angling the ball square off the wicket to the off-side to pick up a couple. A few deliveries later, he edged one between the slips and the ball sped away to the third-man boundary. Despite the initial tentativeness, he sweetly timed a ball off Hughes that beat the packed off-side field and made its way to the fence a few balls thereafter. This shot reinforced the fact that Akram was no mug with the bat, and that his knock of 52 in the first innings wasn’t a flash in the pan.
When the partnership was worth 19 runs, Akram presented a difficult opportunity to Greg Campbell off the latter’s own bowling. Campbell, bowling around the wicket to the left-handed batsman, was required to deviate from his regular path of follow through in order to complete the catch, and hence, understandably, grassed it. Nevertheless, there have been instances of bowlers hanging on to such difficult chances.
Post that short hiccup, Akram played carefree cricket. He pummelled the ball down the ground on multiple occasions and played some blistering drives off every bowler. At one point, there were seven fielders on the off-side, yet, Akram managed to penetrate the field with nonchalant ease.
Whenever there appeared to be a lapse in his concentration, skipper Imran Khan’s calming influence at the other end played a vital role. During one such phase, when Akram was fishing outside the off stump almost every delivery, Imran went down the wicket and talked sense into the youngster’s head. However, Akram left no stone unturned to muscle any bad ball that was hurled at him. There were no naïve hits; just proper cricketing shots.
Shortly after reaching his half-century, Akram survived a leg-before wicket appeal off the bowling of Hughes. Replays confirmed the fact that the ball had pitched well outside the leg stump and that the umpire had called it right. Thereafter, the tall, sturdy left-hander scored three boundaries off Hughes – two glorious drives and one hit straight down the ground off a slower delivery – thereby bringing up a new record partnership for Pakistan against Australia for the sixth wicket (116). Spinner Peter Taylor too wasn’t spared as Akram scored the only six of the innings in his over.
A pull off Hughes to the leg-side fence brought up Akram’s maiden Test century. There wasn’t any wild display of emotion; a raise of the left hand, followed by a handshake from his skipper before acknowledging the crowd concluded the celebration. He seemed aware of the pending task at hand.
Twenty-three runs later, he was bowled off Campbell, just a delivery after surviving a caught-behind appeal. He batted for 244 minutes for his 123, and there were eighteen fours and a six in his innings. He was rightly adjudged the Man of the Match as Pakistan went on to save the second Test and the remaining Test at Sydney too.
In Australia’s second innings, it was Jones who amassed yet another ton.
The elite list
Akram’s efforts helped him join the select band of players who scored a hundred and took five-for in an innings in the same Test. Mushtaq Mohammad and Imran Khan were the two other Pakistanis who had achieved this feat until then. Akram was, and still is, the only other entrant from Pakistan.
Brief scores: Pakistan 257 (Javed Miandad 52, Wasim Akram 52; Carl Rackemann 4-40) and 387 for 9 dec. (Imran Khan 136, Wasim Akram 123; Ravi Shastri 4-45) drew with Australia 341 (Dean Jones 116, Mark Taylor 77; Wasim Akram 5-100) and 233 for 6 (Dean Jones 121, Mark Taylor 59; Tauseef Ahmed 3-80).
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_
First Published: January 22, 2013, 10:53 am