Almanac Cricket: Memories of Australia v Pakistan Tests


“The Cricketer” by Kate Birrell


As we await the start of the twelfth Test series between Australia and Pakistan in Australia a look back over the records shows that the visitors have managed only four Test wins since their first tour here in 1964/65. That Pakistan do not travel well is widely documented. That controversy often follows in their footsteps is well known. And importantly, that they have produced many wonderful cricketers is indisputable.


My memories of Tests between Australia and Pakistan in this country are ones of humour, dismay, doubt, surprise and disgust. I’ll leave the humour for a moment and start with the other sentiments.


The third Test of the series in January 1973 at the SCG produced an unlikely win for Australia as Max “Tangles” Walker swung his side to victory taking 6 for 15 in Pakistan’s second dig. But an earlier performance in the game helped open the doorway for the home team. An 83 run ninth wicket partnership between tailenders Bob Massie and John Watkins gave Australia a lead of 158 and a slim chance. A great diving catch by Ross Edwards triggered the collapse and then surprise surprise enter Mr. Walker with his match-winning performance.


It’s March 1979 and pre-season footy training is getting into full swing. Before taking to the training track, the cricketers among us stop “Hang on, how is the cricket going?” In 33 balls, Sarfraz has just taken 7 for 1 and Australia has totally capitulated. Even the notorious last day MCG pitch can’t be blamed for this performance. Sarfraz takes 9 for 86 and leads his team to its second test win on Australian soil. From my point of view, dismay and disgust in equal measure.


Two years on and the scene is the WACA. A gold headband can’t keep a brain explosion from DK Lillee happening. Bowling to Javed Miandad, and getting mighty frustrated with the exploits of the star Pakistan batsman, Lillee engineers a mid-pitch collision with his tormentor as he takes a cheeky run. Not too impressed, the Pakistani raises his bat swordlike poised over the head of the fast man. Fielders and the umpire intervene to prevent further blows, but the damage is done. My reaction is disgust in the actions of both.


Most recently, it was January 2010 at the SCG and a chance for a father to take his son for his first taste of Test cricket. Drizzling rain prevented any play until after lunch on the first day and the young fellow was struggling to look interested. With the lack of cricket action he was obviously dreaming of a day in the surf tomorrow.



Christmas New Year 2009-10 111

Tim waits for some action alongside a well known SCG spectator


Play finally got under way and shortly after Phillip Hughes slashed at one outside off stump and was taken in the slips. The batting did not get any better as Australia was dismissed for 127. Pakistan replied with a solid 333 and looked to be in total command of the Test when Siddle joined Hussey in Australia’s second innings. With a lead of only 51 it looked all over bar the shouting late on day four. The next morning Pakistan appeared nervous and defensive, much like the Pommies at Adelaide on the last day a few years earlier. The Aussie pair took full advantage of defensive field placements and missed chances (‘sitters’) to build the lead beyond 100. When finally dismissed with a lead of 176 Australia still had its work cut out. To everyone’s dismay the Pakistan batsmen managed to throw their wickets away in a crazy collapse and fell short by 40 runs. Looked suspicious. In the wash-up, with match-fixing allegations rife, much doubt was cast over Pakistan’s implosion. If they did throw it, I am disgusted that Test cricket could come to that.


Now for the humour. Let’s go back to the Sydney Test in 1973. The Newcastle leggie John Watkins was selected from obscurity, along with several other fresh faces, as a trial for Australia’s upcoming tour of the West Indies. Sitting in the Sheridan Stand I witnessed one of the most embarrassing debuts a sportsman could experience. Nerves overtook the normally relaxed and nonchalant Watkins as he could barely land a ball on the square. He bowled wides down both sides of the wicket. In fact the square leg umpire was seen back tracking at one point. Even some of his deliveries that landed on the pitch bounced twice before reaching the batsman. A question from the Hill soon followed. “Hey Wocko, which bounce was ya wrong-un?”  Shocked spectators felt his pain but with a touch of humour at the sight that unfolded during his memorable six over spell.


On the previous day, when Australia were batting in its first innings, the tall Pakistani paceman Sarfraz Nawaz was fielding near the boundary on the ‘hill’ side of the ground. One wag in the crowd noticed that the fieldsman’s creams did not quite make it to boot length, actually not even ankle length, and summing up the problem called out “Hey Sarfraz. Pull up your shorts!” My Dad often recalls that one-liner when we reminisce about days spent watching Test cricket.


So to the ‘Gabba for the First Test. Will the recent travelling form of Pakistan in New Zealand be a portent for their fortunes or will we be served a treat by the riches of their slick fast bowlers, skilful spinners and world-class batsmen? How will both teams go under lights and with the pink ball? Will Australia’s resurrection be short lived? Can the new guns perform under the Brisbane sky?


Let us hope there is plenty of entertaining, absorbing, hard and honest Test cricket, plus one or two moments of good humour.




  1. I recall that first 72/73 series, Pakistan were in winning positions in both Melbourne & Sydney, lost 3-0 but it couldve easily been 2-1 their way.

  2. Peter Warrington says

    There is a piece on the Guardian about the strange and entwined rivalry we have with pakistan. In thinking about it, it struck me how much we saw of Pakistan when I was young, it was drought from 64-5 and then a veritable flood. In 71-2 we got to see the sideway starting Asif Masood (imitating that sent you into one of our oleanders – Bob Massie aroun d the wicket invoked the other), Inti and the ephemeral Zaheer. Then the full team was here for a truncated series the next year, Sarfraz and Mushy, his more talented brother Sadiq, and Majid and Asif Iqbal (throwaway response at our primary school to stupid question – as if, iqbal!). Wasim bari behind the stumps. They smashed three tests in three weeks and Adelaide got Boxing Day!

    We then had Majid being magisterial for Queensland, I think he had the Greg Chappell hat before Greg Chappell? we also played Pakistan in the world Cup.

    76-7 and here they come again, Pakistan v Pack-it-ins at Adelaide (An early sign that GS Chappell probably not the skipper we needed?!@) Imran revenging the 72-3 SCG loss with true venom.

    WSC comes along and there’s Mushy and Imran and Javed and Zaheer and Asif and Majid. Didn’t Haroon Rashid get a gig, too?

    Someone for some reason chucks two random tests in 78-9 and Yallop falls and Hughes wins from the dressing rooms. Their great partnership at the MCG chasing 300+ deserves credit, not as much as the 7-1 does.

    Peace breaks out and we are there in March 1980 for 3 awful tests, Pakistan (Iqbal Qasim) nailing us despite Hughes in the first, and then just batting – Mohsin and Taslim, them were the days. Rod MArsh getting a bowl. Mick Malone touring!?

    81-2 straight back at you, a fine Hughes 100 in Perth eclipsed by the out of form Chappell’s random 200 in Brisbane. Imran’s bowling was something to behold.

    so we go back again in 82, an awful series, weak team and bad harmonies. 3-0 and Greg Ritchie scores one of the great underrated tons.

    The Board go mad and offer them 5 tests in 83-4. Yallop. Qasim Omar. flat decks. everyone makes runs. some old guys retire a year later than they should have.

    84-5 and they’re back out again for the “world Championship”).

    SO my memory didn’t trick me, we played them nearly every year for a while there, either home or away.

    However the UK tests were an act of genius. I would love us to play the Windies at the Oval. wouldn’t that be something!?

  3. Memories hey.

    1972-73 John Benaud made his only test hundred, bringing it up with a six.

    That collapse @ the G in 1979, 7 for 5, 3 of which were no balls. There was the earlier conflict with Alan Hurst being run out but nothing like the conflict in the following test in Perth. WE saw more fun and games at the WACA in 198182.

    In between we’d toured Pakistan. Rod Marsh bowled for the only time in his test career, DK Lillee had the tour from hell, withy, with future Australian Workers Union official enjoying his brief test career in Pakistan.

    THe following threed decades Pakistan cricket never fails to surprise, with cricket ,and related issues, sitting at both bookends.

    Watching Mohammed Amir go down last night ,it didn’t look good. I’ve had a knee reconstruction and a few arthroscopies so you think worst case. Poor bugger. Half an hour later he’s back out limbering up to bowl !!!. THe cynical side of me thought, hmmmm, should i be surprised.

    Looking forward to this series. Pakistan may win a serie southere . Correct me if i’m wrong but they have only won thrice out here: 1976-77, SCG ; 1978-79 MCG & 1995-96, SCG. Is that correct ?


  4. Peter Clark says

    Glen they have won four, the other one being a thumping of Australia at Melbourne in ’81.

  5. Spot on Peter. Thanks for jogging the memory.

    Bruce Yardley picked up 7 of their 8 wickets. It was Pakistan by an innings.

    Not long after there was the classic test V the Windies. Kim Hughes 100 out of 198, DK Lillee Knocking over IVA Richards on the last ball of the first day. I went on day 2 to see DK Lillee make history.

    Yep the MCG pitch of that period was a stinker !


  6. Shane John Backx says

    I was there when Sarfraz took that 9 fuh. Was driving past the MCG on the way home from work listening on the radio when we were 4 for 300 chasing 386, so I decided to call in and see a great win. Border was out as I entered the ground and from then on it was a procession!! Never seen a collapse like it.

  7. One of my earliest cricket memories was listening to the *radio as Max Walker took his 6-15. I was 10 years old and Dad was showing me how to hoe thistles (what great fun…. add it to your bucket list).

    Also remember sitting in the car in Colac listening to the *radio as John Watkins doing his stuff .

    * In both cases, the radio was in the car but it wasn’t a car radio. Dad didn’t feel safe driving with a car radio going so i would have to take a radio with me and only turn it on when the car was not being driven….. happy days.

  8. Pakistan always felt quite exotic to me. And the player names:
    Safraz Nawaz
    Asif Masood
    Intikab Alum
    Saleem Altaf etc

  9. Peter Clark says

    Some vivid memories of Australia v Pakistan tests. The first ‘Gabba day night test did not disappoint. Plenty of entertaining, absorbing, hard and honest test cricket, which had us on the edges of our seats as Pakistan threatened a record fourth innings run chase. Thumbs up to both teams.

  10. G’day Peter. Now to pose a point i’d like you to give me some nuanced feedback for.

    This is the fourth consecutive three test Australia V Pakistan series on Australian soil where we’ve won 3-0. Is this unique? Has any other nation won 12 consecutive tests at home against an opponent? Do you know; do you care ?


  11. Peter Clark says

    Good question Glen. Off the top of my head I don’t know but I guess it could be. Back in the days of five match test series there were lots of draws, so 12 wins on the trot would have been unlikely. A quick check of the records tells us that the record for consecutive test wins against a country is Australia with 13 over Pakistan (Nov. 1999- July 2010). But that includes both home and away test matches. So I guess Australia’s most recent 12 wins in Aust. v Pakistan would be a record.
    My source:

  12. Goodness me i made some serious typos in my post of 16/12/16. Too many to mention beyond the following comment about an Australia’s tour of Pakistan in 1979-80.

    For example the Australian Workers Union official to be who played his tests in Pakistan was Graeme Beard. He was a slowish bowler for New South Wales.

    Mohammed Amir is again in the touring side. He’s had a turbulent career.

    Didn’t S Smith bat superbly in the last T20 match ?


  13. He did indeed. S. Smith’s bat is half sword-half magician’s wand.

  14. I recall listening to the radio in 1983 as Graham Yallop compiled 268. I think it was the Boxing Day Test Whatever his other failings, Yallop was an outstanding player of spin.

  15. That’s right Dan, it was the Boxing Day Test. Yallop and test debutante Greg Matthews (75) put on a partnership of about 180. Abdul Qadir took a ‘5 for’ in Australia’s first innings of 555. I too listened on the radio while camped by the Goobarragandra River near Tumut.

  16. matt watson says

    Pakistan always seemed to have a team of genuine stars, but could never really put it together in Australia.
    In the late 70s and early 80s, it was the bouncy pitches that did them.
    In the 90s, they were just off the pace, and beyond that, they were off the spirit of the game (gambling).
    Some tours, they were pathetic in the field, couldn’t bat or bowl.
    Yet they always seemed to be one spell of bowling or good session with the bat from turning a Test on its head.
    Hopefully they can put it together now.

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