For a few fleeting, romantic moments it seemed that records might be broken yesterday. So they were, of a kind, but it was not Pakistan who chased the 440 they required to win the first Test, which had looked so briefly within the bounds of the possible.
Instead, it was the barely credible figure of Marcus North who bowled Australia to victory by 150 runs by taking 6 for 55 with his off-spin bowling which is less unsung than never thought of. Many reasons were furnished for Australia being installed as favourites to win this series but North was not prominent among them.
He bowled tidily enough to achieve the best first-class figures of his career but as terror off-spin goes it was only just the other side of innocuous. Yet time and again he persuaded a litany of Pakistani batsman into ill-advised strokes, which perhaps is what spinners are meant to do.
North and Australia also prompted the resignation, after one match, of the Pakistan captain, Shahid Afridi. He announced as soon as proceedings were concluded shortly before 3pm that he will retire from Test cricket after the second Test against Australia, which begins next week at Headingley. Even by the standards of turnaround in Pakistani cricket this was swift. There is, of course, time for him yet to reconsider.
Although Afridi had not played Test cricket for nearly four years, he was recalled to the side as captain following a winter of upheaval, as the only feasible candidate. It was always a high risk appointment considering his temperament and maverick nature.
He showed precisely those traits in the way he comported himself in this match. Hopes of improbable victory had all but faded by the time he came in yesterday – 213 needed, five wickets down – but the manner of his dismissal to his fourth ball defied his greatest critics. He launched into a slog to midwicket which went high but not far enough. It might not have raised eyebrows with six wanted from the last ball of the World Twenty20 final.
Afridi, perhaps still bemused by his own actions, said: "I did the wrong thing. I think my temperament is not good enough for Test cricket and I'm struggling with my side as well. I will retire after the next match and concentrate on one-day and Twenty20."
Quite where it leaves Pakistani cricket is uncertain, but then their cricket lives permanently and sometimes flourishes in that state. Afridi nominated the 25-year-old left-handed opener, Salman Butt as his successor. In some ways, it might be wise if he went now.
Butt scored his second half-century of the match yesterday, his well-appointed 92 following his 63 of the first innings. He had begun the fourth morning so assertively that there were mutterings that 440 was not that tall a target after all – though it was 22 more than had ever been made to win a Test before.
He became the first of North's victims not long after he had lost his overnight partner, Azhar Ali, who had also appeared in good order. It was North's first ball of the match, drifting down the leg side. Butt tried to work it away, fell out of his crease as he did so and saw Tim Paine complete a rapid, smart piece of stumping which did not require the confirmation of the third umpire.
There was to be no stopping North thereafter as sucker followed sucker. Umar Akmal cut the last ball before lunch to slip, Umar Amin was deftly held at short leg soon after it, to be followed almost immediately by Afridi.
North was kept waiting for his moment of history but it duly arrived 20 overs later, past the stage where Australia might have taken a new ball, when Mohammad Aamer slogged to deep midwicket. He concluded the match by having Danish Kaneria caught at cover.
There were three wickets too for the tyro leg-spinner Steve Smith, but it was North who became the first Australian off-spinner to take five wickets in an innings at Lord's since George Palmer in 1884 and the first spinner of any kind since Bob Holland in 1985. Shane Warne never did. It is stranger than a captain resigning after one match that the name of Marcus North should be on the Lord's honours board but not that of Shane Warne.Reuse content