AUSTRALIA WERE within one wicket of their first Test victory in Pakistan for 39 years when bad light ended play early yesterday, the fourth day of the first Test. Only continued bad weather is likely to deny the Australians after a day marked by Ian Healy, the Australian wicketkeeper, setting a world record of 356 Test dismissals.
Pakistan were 137 for 9 in their second innings at the close, still 107 behind, after some indifferent batting and steady Australian bowling.
The last time Australia won a Test series or even a match here was in 1959-60 when Richie Benaud's team beat Pakistan 2-0 in a three-match series.
Healy caught Wasim Akram off Colin Miller to overhaul his fellow Australian Rodney Marsh in the record books and set the stage for a victory in four days. However, torrential rain and Pakistan's captain, Salim Malik, prevented the tourists earning themsleves an extra rest day. Salim was unbeaten on 48, after hitting sixes during a 197-minute stay.
Healy's record apart, the highlight was the bowling of the leg-spinner, Stuart Macgill, who finished with 4 for 42, to go with his 5 for 66 in the first innings, after Glenn McGrath and Damien Fleming had dented Pakistan's batting.
MacGill was among a knot of Australian players to congratulate Healy, in his 104th Test, the moment Wasim edged a catch to become his record victim. Marsh claimed his 355 victims in 96 Tests.
"It was like being on a ducker or 99 as I waited for the record victim," Healy said. "On the first day, when Pakistan batted, it was a bit difficult to keep but today was better because victory was so close.
"It was pleasing as well because it was a good catch. I would have liked it to happen on the first day when I equalled the record. Two days however allowed me to get my head together. Half the team had forgotten about it but suddenly they realised that I had done it," he said.
Three dismissals in seven balls in the first session of the day put Australia on the road to victory. Aamir Sohail and Saeed Anwar made a cautious start, putting on 24 in the first hour. Then McGrath changed ends to bowl into the strong breeze, and Sohail played on. Fleming then trapped Muhammad Wasim and Inzamam-ul-Haq leg-before without scoring.
When Peter Willey upheld Miller's appeal against the left-handed Saeed, who was struck on the front pad while stretching a long way forward, Pakistan were 32 for 4. Salim could then have followed quickly but Mark Waugh dropped him at second slip off McGrath, a miss that probably prolonged the match into the final day.
Fourth day; Pakistan won toss
PAKISTAN - First innings 269 (Saeed Anwar 145; S C G MaGill 5-66).
AUSTRALIA - First innings 513 (S R Waugh 157, M J Slater 108, D S Lehmann 98, I Healy 82).
PAKISTAN - Second Innings
Saeed Anwar lbw b Miller 19
Aamir Sohail b McGrath 13
Mohammad Wasim lbw b Fleming 0
Inzamam-ul-Haq lbw b Fleming 0
*Salim Malik not out 48
Moin Khan c Taylor b Miller 18
Azhar Mahmood c Langer b MacGill 1
Wasim Akram c Healy b Miller 15
Mohammad Hussain c Miller
b MacGill 17
Mushtaq Ahmed lbw b McGill 0
Saqlain Mustaq not out 3
Extras (lb3) 3
Total (for 9) 137
Fall: 1-24 2-32 3-32 4-32 5-66 6-68 7-94 8-126 9-128.
Bowling: McGrath 14-6-21-1; Fleming 15-4-38-2; Miller 21-8-30-2; MacGill 19-7-42-4; Lehmann 3-2-3-0.
Umpires: Javed Akhtar and P Willey (Eng).