Almanac Cricket History – A year of turmoil, capped off in remarkably different ways: the story of Australia v Pakistan in 2009/10

 

“The Cricketer”
by Kate Birrell

 

2009 had been a tough year for both Australia and Pakistan. The start of 2009 signalled the worst bushfires the country Down Under had ever seen. Pakistan had lost the right to host international cricket fixtures after a harrowing terrorist attack against the visiting Sri Lanka team in March.

 

Both reeling in different ways, the two hurt nations were set to meet in Australia at the year’s end for the latter’s summer schedule of international cricket. Grappling with the notion of not being able to host international cricket for an indefinite period of time, Pakistan arrived on Australian shores despondent, yet fiercely determined to snatch an away win as a reward for the people who had been hurt in Lahore.

 

The Australian nation, relying heavily on its sporting stars to deliver happiness for bushfire affected regions, were even more vulnerable come the latter months of 2009, as they turned their eyes to the Test team, pleading with them to distract victims from the thought of lost lives and eternally ruined homes.

 

What started as a horror year for Pakistan’s national cricket team collapsed into utter turmoil come the end of the tour. Captain Mohammad Yousuf, the dominant batsman and strong personality, openly admitted to clashing with old tenants Yousif Khan and Shoaib Malik. They would face the fastest recorded delivery in Australia, courtesy of Shaun Tait, and would fail to win an international match throughout their three-format series. Controversial star Shahid Alfridi would infamously bite the white ball during a one-day international, incurring a suspension from two Twenty20 matches. But the worst part of this harrowing voyage to rectify the fractured nature of Pakistani cricket was that infamous Sydney Test, and the impact it had on both teams.

 

Following the West Indies and their easy defeats to an aging Aussie team looking to avenge an away Ashes loss during the winter, the Pakistani team would first take the field on Boxing Day, Australian cricket’s day of days. The visiting team’s big hope lay in young star Mohammad Amir and his sharp left-arm pace that was touted to be unsettling and wildly dangerous for opposing batsmen. A day into the 26th of December, Amir’s reputation looked incorrect – both Australian openers in Shane Watson and Simon Katich had amassed 90s and Amir would chalk up his first ton as a bowler.

 

This experienced Aussie batting line-up, still including the likes of Ponting, Clarke, Hussey and Marcus North, would notch up 454 with ease and give their mix-and-match bowling group a chance to secure victory. Watson finally broke his nervous 90s routine in the second innings, and despite Amir bouncing back with a startling five wicket haul, Australia cruised home by 170 runs to go 1-0 up. To see the full scoreboard from this Test, click here.

 

A veneer of returning to the good old days settled over the Australian unit. Ponting, Clarke and Hussey were still holding up the middle order, while new bowlers were coming in with some effectiveness. Going to the SCG, the public was settling in to another era of dominance.

 

Then day one struck and the horror show occurred. Watson was removed early and Ponting fell for a golden duck. From there, Hussey tried to notch up a decent total and Johnson combined with Hauritz to let the tail wag – a helpful contribution in the grand scheme of things. Mohammad Asif picked up six wickets on a seaming deck under cloudy skies, rolling the confident Aussies for a humiliating 127. A low for Australia, the team that went in cocky and hopeful trudged out to field with their tails between their legs.

 

For the first time in a while, the team was relying on their bowlers to keep them in the game. Yet this team no longer had McGrath, Lee and Warne on hand to work their way through. In response, Pakistan’s openers both racked up half-centuries, while some handy middle order contributions from Yousuf and Umar Akmal gave them a 206 run lead. This visiting team had gone through hell and back in the past twelve months, and now they had a chance to turn it all around.

 

Just as they had Australia down, foot on the throat, Watson fired another 97 and the Aussies slowly began to worm out from underneath the desperate Pakistanis. Before they could pass the tourist’s lead, a flurry of wickets fell, including the notorious Ponting and Clarke. Luckily, there was Mr Cricket.

 

In just another one of his finest hours, Hussey took control of the SCG. Playing with his great poise and wise decision making, he crafted a memorable and vital 134 not out. Asif looked a shadow of his first innings self, and Hussey used his feet exquisitely to Danesh Kaneria. Despite not spinning past Hussey, the Pakistani leg spinner took all other comers to take a five wicket haul.

 

Off the back of a handy Siddle knock at the end, Australia came out with a miniscule chance. On a spin friendly wicket, after a five-wicket haul at the MCG, all eyes were on Nathan Hauritz. This was exactly what the public had discussed. With the Warne pressure and presence looming over him, the off-spinner had to rip through the visitors on a spin-friendly deck.

 

Often forgotten about due to the impact Lyon has had on the Australian spin landscape post-Warne, Hauritz was undervalued. Under gloomy skies late in the SCG test of 2010, he was invincible.

 

Everything was before Pakistan. They had earned this chance – months of heartache, stress and criticism. Times of bickering, of hard work and of pressure – both internal and external. Now, in their defining hour, they fell to Australia’s two X-factors.

 

First it was Johnson. Coming on at first change, he nicked off both Salman Butt and Faisal Iqbal, leaving Pakistan perched precariously at 3-51. With Bollinger helping to work through the middle order that had held up so steadily in the first innings, Hauritz was thrown the ball.

 

A couple of short skips in, a loopy 360-degree rotation of the right arm that released the ball early, giving it time to flight up and drop with the finger spin – Hauritz’ ungainly figure extracted some decent turn. Going for broke with lots of flight, captain Yousuf was deceived, potting it straight back to Hauritz. Misbah-ul-Haq, the experienced number six, was caught after two balls. Bang bang. Was Hauritz the answer?

 

All of a sudden, Australia had hope. TVs flicked to Channel Nine, Sydney-siders flocked to the SCG. In the remnants of Jane McGrath day, another emotion was quickly rising. Johnson got the edge off the flamboyant stroke-making of keeper Kamran Akmal, then Hauritz enticed the tail enders into big swings. Nervous that they were so close to a statement win to take back home, the pressure got to the bottom order.

 

For everything that was to follow, Pakistan needed this win. They could’ve lost every other game, but winning at Sydney would have given them hope. Trust in Yousuf, belief in the youngsters playing their part. Unfortunately, after every high ball looped up off Hauritz and ably caught by the gleeful Aussies, Pakistani cricket lurched deeper and deeper into a pit of dissent and trouble. To see the full scoreboard of this Test, click here.

 

Both teams had experienced tough years in remarkably different ways. Starting a new decade on a remarkable comeback victory and with a dangerous off-spinner, Australia moved on from Sydney with hope. If they could get out of that corner, how far could this team go? Ten years on and we know that a serious revamp would be needed within a year. Cricket’s funny like that.

 

Pakistan never recovered from this. Desolate and dispirited after such a heartbreaking loss, Pakistani cricket spluttered and then completely imploded just a year later after the bookmaking controversy surrounding Asif, Butt and the tearaway fast bowler Amir. A shocking period for Pakistan, it all may have started on the back of that fateful day in Sydney. And they are only climbing back out of that pit now, ten years on.

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Sean, definitely ‘testing times’ for both teams. Reading through all those names I can’t help but think how far we’ve moved on in just 10 years.

  2. Yep, definitely some memorable – and not so memorable – names there, Sean.

    I don’t think Australia saw the very best of Mohammad Yousuf.

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