Pakistanis stagger over the line to make history

Heartstopping first victory over the Australians in 15 years but Ponting claims confidence is not dented, writes Stephen Brenkley in Leeds
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The Independent Online

Pakistan beat Australia by three wickets, it took 65 minutes of play on the fourth morning to achieve the momentous victory, during which the heart stopped around the same number of times. Four wickets went down while the last 40 measly runs were scored, the Australians refusing to acknowledge that they were beaten, Pakistan having barely a clue as to how they might finish off the Second Test.

Ultimately, they wheezed their way to the finish when Umar Gul took a chance off his first ball and drove deliriously through the covers for the required single. For Salman Butt, Pakistan's new captain, it was a joyous, not to mention historic, moment.

"It was a bit nerve-racking when a few wickets fell but that's the way cricket goes," he said. "When you have this added responsibility you tend to think a bit more when you are only in your first game, but thank God it went through positively and we won. This means a lot, it's a new beginning for Pakistan cricket, especially with this young side."

The result will bring opprobrium pouring down on Australia's captain, Ricky Ponting. With the Ashes only four months away, defeat against Pakistan for the first time since 1995 was not part of the planning. He was in more phlegmatic mood than he might have been after presiding over a first innings in which his side were bowled out for 88 following his decision to bat.

"It was a good fightback in the last half of this game," said Ponting. "I was disappointed with our batting yesterday and we had a chance to get a few more than 349, but the way we stuck at it showed some character. November is a long way away yet. A loss quite often highlights things you are doing wrong and that's what this week will do for us. I don't think it will do too much to dent our confidence. We haven't been at our best, not just the batting but the bowling at various stages in this match. We know we haven't been at our absolute best in these two Test matches."

For England, it can be sensed, there is real hope this winter, but first they have the little matter of taking on a Pakistan – reverting to being the tourists – now brimming with confidence. But how they did their utmost to muck it up and allow Australia to win the mini-series 2-0.

Perhaps the outcome hinged ultimately on one of those controversial dramatic moments that only cricket, only Test cricket at that, can produce. With five runs needed and four wickets standing, Kamran Akmal cut Mitchell Johnson fiercely to gully,where Mike Hussey took an outstanding low catch in front of him. Kamran was rightly reluctant to depart and umpire Rudi Koertzen, standing in his last match, was reluctant to raise the finger. The decision was referred to the third umpire and on the available evidence – a non-high- definition picture of the moment – Kamran had to survive.

But nobody on the ground can have thought that Hussey had done anything other than take a clean catch. Had the batsman been given out, anything might still have happened. All morning Pakistan had found runs hard to come by, shy of playing their natural game for fear of failure. The stalwartly defensive tactics they adopted so nearly cost them dear.

Recent history must have weighed heavily on both sides: Australia had won 13 successive Tests against Pakistan. With Pakistani inexperience and Australian self-belief suffusing the Headingley air, nothing was going to be straightforward. Azhar Ali, a rock the previous evening, had no sooner struck Doug Bollinger for a gloriously driven four than he nibbled at one outside off and was caught behind. Pakistan still needed 34 runs.

That had been reduced to 30 when Umar Akmal, eschewing his natural free-flowing game for something circumspect and alien, nicked an outswinger from Ben Hilfenhaus. A mere four more runs had been added when Shoaib Malik was put down by Michael Clarke, diving to his right from second slip to third and just failing to hold on.

That, too, was a crucial moment but, despite the reprieve, Shoaib could not see it through. He drove Hilfenhaus hard only for Marcus North to take a wonderful catch at short cover. Nineteen wanted, and there was a real possibility now that Australia would win.

Pakistan, who had failed to chase 179 in Sydney last winter, were teetering on the precipice again. But Kamran played some authoritative shots, one cover-driven four from Hilfenhaus being especially significant.

There followed his lucky escape, shortly after which Mohammad Aamer, apparently a nerveless cricketer, steered a four through the slips. One needed, still four wickets left. There was still time for Kamran to be caught – without any doubt at all this time – in the gully by Hussey, flinging himself alertly to his left.

But the wickets-runs equation was too difficult to bridge even for Australia and too easy even for Pakistan. Gul launched himself at the ball which raced jubilantly through the covers as the entire Pakistan squad ran on to the ground. England had better watch out.

Headingley scoreboard

Australia won toss

First innings: Australia 88

Pakistan 258 (S R Watson 6-33).

Second innings: Australia 349 (S P D Smith 77, M J Clarke 77, R T Ponting 66; Mohammad Aamer 4-86).

Overnight: Pakistan 140-3 (Imran Farhat 67).

Pakistan

Azhar Ali c Paine b Bollinger

(108 balls, 146 min, 6 fours) 51

Umar Akmal c Paine b Hilfenhaus

(22 balls, 26 min, 1 four) 8

Shoaib Malik c North b Hilfenhaus

(24 balls, 46 min) 10

† Kamran Akmal c Hussey b Johnson

(26 balls, 31 min, 3 fours) 13

Mohammad Aamer not out

(11 balls, 11 min, 1 four) 5

Umar Gul not out

(1 ball, 1 min) 1

Extras (lb7, nb5) 12

Total (for 7, 50.4 overs) 180

Fall: 1-27, 2-137, 3-137, 4-146, 5-150, 6-161, 7-179.

Did not Bat: Danish Kaneria, Mohammad Asif.

Bowling: Bollinger 13-2-51-3, Hilfenhaus 13-2-39-3, Johnson 10.4-1-41-1, Watson 5-1-18-0, Smith 9-2-24-0.

Umpires: I J Gould (Eng) and R E Koertzen (SA).

Pakistan win by 3 wickets. Series drawn 1-1.

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