14th of August 2017 and the whole nation will celebrate the 70 years of independence. Let’s celebrate this historical occasion with something special. If a cricket fan wants to do a task related to cricket which is full of fun and challenges at the same time, just pick the best victories by a team or pick an all-time XI of that team.
As we are celebrating the 70 years of independence of Pakistan, I have decided to pick the top 5 victories by Pakistan in both test & ODI cricket. I will come up with the top 5 ODIs in another article, so, this one is about the top 5 test matches of Pakistan. Before picking the matches, one thing which everyone should understand is that what makes a victory special. To me, sometimes, you just love some matches and at times even a very famous match doesn’t attract you.
Some victories are considered as landmark victories, overseas victories definitely give a cricket fan more happiness than a victory at home and sometimes, an individual performance in a match makes a victory very very special. But apart from all these things, I believe that if you love a victory, you should definitely pick that. It’s as simple as that. Some of the matches that I have not picked are also quite remarkable, but when you are selecting just 5 victories from more than 130, then, you should go for the matches that attract you the most.
The thing which is more challenging than picking 5 matches is to rank those matches from 5-1. So, these are the top 5 test matches won by Pakistan and these are the matches that I believe hold a significant importance in the history of Pakistan cricket due to some very very special reasons.
5. The Marquee clash at Eden Gardens:
Pakistan vs India in the inaugural Asian Test Championship in 1999. When there is a match at Eden Gardens, one thing which is obvious is the massive crowd attendance. Almost 1,00,000 spectators were at the Eden Gardens on each of the first four days of this test match. Pakistan vs India in front of such a massive crowd at the most iconic Indian venue, you can’t get a better setting than this one in a test match. Then, within no time, Pakistan struggling at 26/6 and a total of less than 100 looked certain.
But then Moin Khan stepped up with two crucial partnerships. First, he added 84 with Saleem Malik and then a partnership of 63 with Wasim Akram. Moin scored a brilliant 70 as Pakistan finished with 185. From 26/6, 185 was indeed decent recovery.
India looking for a big first innings lead at 147/2 and then came those two deliveries. Yes, those two deliveries by Shoaib Akhtar to Dravid and Tendulkar and those two deliveries are one of the best moments in the history of Pakistan cricket. India got all out for 223. 7
Pakistani batsmen failed to reach in double figures in 2nd innings, but there was a batting hero for Pakistan. Saeed Anwar carried his bat with a superb 188. It was Saeed Anwar’s amazing batting that allowed Pakistan to score over 300. There was a hero for India as well as Srinath bowled superbly to take 13 wickets in the match. India needed 279 to win the test match.
Ramesh & Laxman started with an opening stand of 108 and then Saqlain dismissed both of them. Then, that famous run-out as Tendulkar had a collision with Shoaib Akhtar. Then came the crowd disturbance, Tendulkar pleaded to spectators to calm down and when the play resumed, Pakistan gave no chance to the Indians. There was a match going on between the police and Indian fans on the last day as Pakistan won the test by 46 runs in an almost empty stadium.
Pakistan won the final of the championship against Sri Lanka but the real highlight of that championship was the victory in the Kolkata test. Winning the crucial match of Asian Test Championship in front of huge crowd, the recovery from 26/6, those two special deliveries by Shoaib, magnificent batting by Saeed Anwar and for all the excitement and drama in the match, Kolkata 99 is No. 5 on my list.
4. The drama at Lord’s:
1992 series comes into the mind for all the buildup and hype before the series. There was a lot of talk even before the series had started. The 2nd test of the series was at the home of cricket. Gooch & Stewart started with a stand of 123, England 197/3 and then the typical English collapse of that summer against the reverse swing as England got all out for 255 with Waqar taking 5 wickets.
Pakistan responded with 293 with fifties from Aamir Sohail, Asif Mujtaba & Saleem Malik. England came up with another typical English innings of that series. From 108/2, England finished with just 175 and this time Wasim got 4 wickets. A target of just 138 but we all know how funny things happen when Pakistan is chasing a target.
Chris Lewis got Ramiz, Mujtaba & Miandad all three for ducks. Pakistan started panicking and the score became 18/3, 41/4, 62/5, 68/6,81/7, 95/8 and suddenly England came close of winning the match. But the difference between the two teams in that series, the two W’s were at the crease.
The Bible of cricket, Wisden Almanack summarised the situation perfectly in the match report of this test, “What England’s captain needed was an over from Wasim or Waqar. But they were batting for the other side”.
Both Wasim & Waqar started scoring runs and suddenly English team looked nervous, Wasim hit 4 fours while Waqar hit 2. Pakistan won by 2 wickets in a dramatic finish as Wasim scored an unbeaten 45 and Waqar made 20.
There was absolute jubilation in the Pakistani dressing room. There was excellent bowling by the two W’s in the match but most importantly it was the batting by the two bowling greats that makes this victory very very special. Also, the victory was achieved at the most iconic venue in the world. For all these reasons and for all the ups and downs and drama, Lord’s 1992 is at No.4
3. Pakistan stuns England at Headingley:
When teams visit England, they always face a tough challenge at Headingley in Leeds. You have to be a really good batsman to succeed at Headingley. So, at No. 3, I have picked the 1987 Headingley clash. England made just 136 in first innings as Imran Khan, Wasim Akram & Mohsin Kamal took 3 wickets each. Then, Pakistan needed someone to play an innings full of discipline and class.
Saleem Malik who just loved playing against England played a superb knock. He missed his hundred by just 1 run but his 99 on that Headingley track was sheer brilliance. At one stage, Pakistan were 208/6 but the last 4 wickets added 145 precious runs. Ijaz scored a fifty and Wasim Akram made 43 with 4 sixes.
Neil Foster got 8 wickets but once Pakistan got a lead of over 200, surely, it was enough. England just couldn’t handle the pressure in 2nd innings as Imran destroyed the English batting lineup with 7 wickets which gave him 10 in the match.
Pakistan won by an innings and 18 runs and eventually this win gave Pakistan the first ever series victory on English soil. There have been many test victories by Pakistan in England, but for winning in such a dominating fashion, for exceptional bowling by Imran and for the batting discipline, I believe, Headingley 1987 has been the best one. That’s why, I have ranked this one even above Lord’s 92, so, 1987 Headingley in Leeds is at No.3
2. For others it’s Oval, for me it’s SCG:
There is always one victory in the history of every cricketing nation which is termed as, “The First One”, “The First Major”, “This Was the Start” and all these kinds of things. The good thing about Pakistan cricket is that Pakistan didn’t take too long to achieve the landmark victories. There were the test match victories in India & West Indies in 50s and there was the Oval test in 1954 which is considered by the majority of fans as the first landmark victory.
But I have chosen a test match which was a massive victory in my opinion and the modern day generation doesn’t know much about this one. It’s the Sydney test match in 1977. Australia leading 1-0 in the series and the last test started. Australia made 211 and now another reason for which this victory is one of my favourites.
This test match transformed the great Imran Khan from an average cricketer to a world class cricketer. Imran took 6 wickets and it was the first major performance by him in international cricket. Pakistan responded with 360 as debutant Haroon Rasheed and Miandad scored half centuries and there was also a special hundred by Asif Iqbal.
Imran Khan made sure that Pakistan would not chase a challenging total in 4th innings. Imran took 6 wickets in 2nd innings to take 12 in the match. Sarfraz also bowled well to take 6 wickets and Pakistan needed just 32 to win. Lillee did get 2 wickets but Majid Khan finished the match with 3 fours and a six. Pakistan won by 8 wickets and it was the first test victory by an Asian team in Australia.
The test which saw the emergence of Imran Khan as a superstar, the first ever test victory on Australian soil as we all know that Asian teams rarely win test matches in Australia, Sydney 1977 is the victory which I rate as the first major one, so, it’s my pick at No. 2
1. The mother of all victories:
Every cricket fan has the right to have an argument on the matches that I picked from No. 2 to No. 5, but I don’t think anyone can raise a finger on the victory that I picked at No. 1. NO. 1 should be a victory that is different in a unique way from all the other victories and it should be a kind of victory that comes once in 50 years.
It’s the Chennai test match in 1999 and before going into the match, take a look at the things which had happened before the match. Both Pakistan & India conducted the nuclear tests in 1998 and there was a serious tension between the two nations. Later on, the relations got better to some extent but still the Pakistan tour to India was in danger. There were massive protests by Shiv Sena in India but the good thing was that the Indian government was positive about the tour. Eventually, Pakistan toured India, the security was very tight and then came the Chennai test match.
I remember watching this as a 9-year old cricket fan and when you are watching as a 9-year old, you don’t watch with mind, infact you just watch the match with heart. Pakistan in trouble at 91/5 but went on to make 238 with fifties from Mohammad Yousuf and Moin Khan. Kumble got 6 for India.
India replied with 254 with half centuries coming from Dravid & Ganguly. Saqlain got 5 wickets which also included Tendulkar for a duck. A lead of just 16 for India, so, no team had the upper hand at the halfway mark. And then came the innings which defines the Afridi of early years. A calculated assault by Afridi which included 21 fours and 3 sixes stunned the Indians. Afridi made an excellent 141 and I always I feel about two things, one that Afridi never justified his batting talent and also that he should have played more test cricket.
Pakistan collapsed from 275/4 to 286 all-out as Prasad took 6 wickets. A target of 271 for India, Waqar dismissed both the openers and India in big trouble at 82/5. Then happened a thing which was a routine for Indian cricket in 90s. It became Pakistan vs Tendulkar rather than Pakistan vs India. Tendulkar vs the opposition rather than India vs the opposition happened on numerous occasions in that era. And Tendulkar started building a partnership with Mongia.
It was amazing display of batting by Tendulkar, India needed 53 more and Wasim made the breakthrough. Wasim got rid of Mongia as Waqar took a pressure catch. But Sachin was still there and even though Saqlain bowled superbly in the match, there came a stage in the run-chase when Saqlain just didn’t know what to do against Sachin. But Wasim persisted with Saqlain, Tendulkar batting on 136, India just 17 away from victory and Saqlain made the breakthrough. This time Wasim took the pressure catch and with Tendulkar’s dismissal, Pakistan was back in front.
Wasim trapped Kumble leg-before, Joshi caught & bowled by Saqlain and then Srinath was bowled by Saqlain as Pakistan won the test match by 12 runs. It was an absolute thriller and there were jubilant scenes across the country after this victory. But the story is not over yet.
What happened next was exactly opposite to what happened in the Kolkata test of 99. The Chennai crowd gave a standing ovation to the Pakistan cricket team and that standing ovation is one of the greatest moments in the history of cricket. Pakistan winning against India in India and Indian crowd gives a standing ovation to the Pakistan team. This kind of thing can happen only once in 100 years.
Interestingly, the Man of the Match award was given to Tendulkar but he didn’t attend the presentation ceremony, just because he was so dejected after doing so-much in the run-chase. So, it was a very very special victory for Pakistan. For all the things that preceded this historical tour, for that innings of Afridi, those 10 wickets of Saqlain, for all the tension in the run-chase and for that “Standing Ovation”, Chennai 1999 is No. 1 on my list of top5 test matches of Pakistan.