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Pakistan v Australia, 2nd test at Peshawar

Reports from the Electronic Telegraph
15-19 October 1998

Day 1: Taylor milks Pakistan for captain's 112

By Peter Deeley in Peshawar

PAKISTAN are paying a heavy price for going with a raw opening attack into a Test they must win to have any chance of taking the series.

Shoaib Akhtar, 23, and Mohammad Zahid, 22, had collectively appeared eight times at this level before yesterday and the result of their inexperience was writ large on the scoreboard long before bad light stopped play.

At the premature close of the opening day Australia were 224 for one, with their captain Mark Taylor reaching his 19th Test century and Justin Langer three short of his first.

In truth Pakistan had little choice. Waqar Younis had an elbow injury and Wasim Akram went down late with a throat infection to the relief of Taylor, who said: ``I was happy to see his name absent from the team sheet. Pakistan are not the same without Wasim.''

The home selectors seem bedevilled at the moment. They lost the first Rawalpindi Test by packing their attack on a slow turner with spinners. Now they prepare a quick pitch and do not have the resources in depth to utilise it.

Australia knew that the first hour would be crucial after choosing to bat first. Taylor paid respect to the opening pair: ``They are as sharp a pair of quick bowlers as you will see anywhere in world cricket but they tired.''

In that time Michael Slater was caught low at gully trying to drive Shoaib and next ball Langer was perilously close to being leg before.

Langer, coming from a successful personal summer with a mediocre Middlesex, was playing for his future in his 10th Test spread over 5.5 years with only three fifties.

In Rawalpindi he was leg before first ball and when the shout went up yesterday he said later: ``I thought 'Test career over. Two golden ducks in two innings.'

``But I know umpire Steve Bucknor always takes his time and when there was a shake of the head I picked my heart up and swallowed it.''

There was no let-up for Pakistan after that. Taylor and Langer put on 208 in 4.5 hours and you could count the times bowler beat batsman on the fingers of one hand. Taylor too was under the cosh for his poor form on tour to date. But he got better as the day progressed and his six off Shoaib, laying back and pulling square, was the perfect riposte to his critics.

As in the opening Test, Mushtaq Ahmed looked far below his best and he did not have the back-up of Saqlain Mushtaq, who was in London with his ill father.

Mushtaq got no turn and did not appear to relish the thought of flighting the ball against the two Australian left-handers. He saw Taylor on 19 put down in the covers off a low drive, and that appeared only to hasten the demoralisation that set in among the fielders.

Taylor turned down one offer of the light, and eventually Bucknor took it upon himself to bring the players off. ``I thought it was getting too dangerous for everyone. I almost got hit once,'' the umpire explained.

The Australia captain said he had wanted to bat on until Langer reached his hundred. ``Then I would have gone off but as I had a sleepless night on 96 before I got to my first century, now it's his turn.''

Australia's cricket authorities have rebuked Steve Bernard, the tour manager, and the players Justin Langer and Gavin Robertson for posing for pictures with AK-47 assault rifles during a visit to the Khyber Pass before the Test.

The photo, taken by Pakistani guards at Macani near the Afghanistan border, outraged the Australian anti-gun lobby.

Denis Rogers, the ACB's chairman, said the action was ``naive and ill-considered and offensive to the wider Australian community''.

Day 2: Decision time as Taylor sleeps on unbeaten 334

By Peter Deeley in Peshawar

OVER several beers in the Australian hotel team room last night Mark Taylor took soundings of his colleagues before deciding whether to press on today towards cricket's greatest individual milestone - the highest Test innings of 375 presently held by Brian Lara.

He already stands unbeaten on 334, equalling the Australian record held by Sir Donald Bradman, but if the team consensus is that they need all of three days to bowl Pakistan out twice to win the second Test and the series then that will be all right by their captain, an egalitarian to his very boots.

``The records don't really matter,'' he said after completing his second full day at the crease. ``My, and our, first priority is to come away from the subcontinent with the series victory. That's a rare enough achievement for anyone. I'll go along with their views. And if I stay level with Sir Donald that'll be quite good enough for me, thank you.''

Only six men in Test history have posted a higher score than Taylor, who has now faced 564 balls and hit 32 fours and a six. He scored 222 yesterday in a day lengthened by half an hour and has guided Australia to an impregnable 599 for four.

Taylor, 34 this month, answers amiably to the nick-name of Tubs, but it was the weight of his authority with the bat which flattened Pakistan. Only a few days before, when he hardly seemed able to get the ball off the square, someone asked if he was thinking of retiring soon.

``Not just yet,'' he answered and after this historic innings, he amplified that view. ``Let's see how I go on in the Ashes series. If I'm still enjoying it after that I'll keep on playing.''

On the first morning Taylor gave a chance at 19 but it was not until he got to 325 that another offering came Pakistan's way, a tickle down leg side off Aamir Sohail that was not held.

Taylor got to Bradman's 334 in the final over and off the penultimate ball tried a tired drive that midwicket stopped with his feet. ``I knew I was level with Sir Donald but I decided I didn't want to throw it all away,'' he said.

During the day Taylor also passed Bradman's total Test runs and Greg Chappell's to become Australia's third heaviest scorer with 7,121 runs in his 98th Test.

He saw Justin Langer through to a maiden Test hundred before the former Middlesex batsman was caught behind trying to slash at a wide ball from Azhar Mahmood, thus ending a record Australian second-wicket partnership of 279 against Pakistan.

A long hop from Salim Malik outside leg gave Taylor the chance to shovel it away for four to go into the 290s; then he drove Mushtaq Ahmed through a groping extra cover for another boundary to reach the triple hundred.

That had taken nearly 11.5 hours but then Taylor found a second wind and was soon loping up and down for twos and threes, all in all the extraordinary triumph of a willing mind over an aching body.

Day 3: Taylor shuns attempt on Test record

By Peter Roebuck in Peshawar

THE Pakistan players were astonished. Mark Taylor had declared at his overnight score. He had thrown away the chance of making the highest score in the history of Test cricket. He only needed another 42 runs, a mere postscript to his previous efforts. He had also given up the chance of making the highest score in the 120-year history of his country's involvement in Test cricket, contenting himself with a position beside Sir Donald Bradman at 334 not out.

It was not a decision taken lightly. Taylor had spent a restless night. At 2 am he had decided to declare. Soon afterwards he had decided to continue for an hour, not so much to break records as to grind his opponents into the dust. Doubtless he remembered all those failures when he appeared incapable of scoring 34 let alone 334.

In the end, Taylor kept to his team's plan of batting for a couple of days on an unblemished pitch before trying to skittle the hosts. At 8.45, he gathered his players together and told them the news. They clapped. Their captain had put the team first.

It was a remarkable turnaround for Taylor. Fifteen months ago he walked from the field at Edgbaston with another failure to his name, his bat all edges and glue upon the soles of his boots. His form had deserted him and there was no sign of revival. The calls for his head were long and loud. Immensely to his credit, he had not allowed personal misfortunes to affect his captaincy and his steadfastness had inspired loyalty among his men. Geoff Marsh, the Australian coach, says Taylor is the strongest man he has met.

Birmingham was the low point. Peshawar was an unimagined peak. Taylor began his innings here scratchily. He was dropped at 17 and 28. His form on tour had already provoked debate among touring reporters, whose chief concern these last few years has been the well-being of their captain. Although he is a most gracious man, Taylor has never been a graceful player and has none of the charms that create attachment.

Suddenly, at 60 or so, his game returned. Suddenly, the runs were flowing as Taylor pulled, cut, off-drove and tucked off his pads with certainty. Thereafter, he did not look like getting out, to the bowlers anyhow, for he did embark upon several singles better left to those fleeter of foot.

It was not a great innings. Pakistan's bowling was threadbare. Mostly, it was in the hands of beginners, the wounded and occasionals. From 200 onwards, Taylor was untroubled, collecting with singles and pulled boundaries against trundlers bowling to a far-flung field. The greatness of the innings lay in the fact that it was played at all.

Rare are the days when the main event occurs before play has begun. Thousands arrived yesterday hoping and expecting to see Taylor break all manner of records. Instead, they saw the roller chosen by the home captain and the Pakistan batsmen piling on the runs on an unmarked, untouched pitch.

Saeed Anwar and Aamir Sohail led the way with characteristic panache as Pakistan responded strongly to Australia's formidable score of 599 for four. But whereas Saeed was adventurous, his captain seemed reckless and, unable to control himself, duly hooked a bouncer to long leg.

Ijaz Ahmed joined Saeed and started feeding upon some erratic leg spin. But Stuart MacGill took nine wickets in Rawalpindi and he bowled some beauties here, too. Between times, though, he could not find line or length.

The score at lunch was 123 for one and Australia could not stem the flow. It is a curious fact that their spin bowling has fallen into the hands of a 28-year-old hitherto not so much a character as a conflagration and a 34-year-old who spent a long and jovial career opening the bowling for Tasmania. Nowadays, Colin Miller bowls pace and fastish off-breaks which he lands and turns pretty well.

It fell to Miller to break the partnership as the Australians tightened their game after tea. Contained, Saeed lashed out and was caught behind to leave Pakistan at 256 for two. Inzamam-ul-Haq arrived needing to score runs to protect his place.

He settled and began cutting and driving with familiar bravado. Meanwhile, Saeed moved craftily along, occasionally hooking, otherwise playing watchfully as he tried to revive a flagging career.

By stumps, Pakistan had reached a position from which they can hardly lose. Accordingly, the series should be alive in Karachi, where the hosts have never lost.

Australian Triple Centuries

334* M A Taylor v Pakistan, Peshawar, 1998

334 D G Bradman v England, Headingley, 1930

311 R B Simpson v England, Old Trafford, 1964

307 R M Cowper v England, Melbourne, 1966

304 Bradman v England, Headingley, 1934

Day 4: Track not solely Taylor-made

By Peter Deeley in Peshawar

IF YOUR appetite is for runs, runs and more runs then this is the place to be just now: 1,200 scored in four days for 13 wickets and a bowler yet to hit the stumps.

Mark Taylor may have reaped all the kudos with his historic unbeaten 334 but to date there have been three other century-makers - a maiden one for Justin Langer, Ijaz Ahmed's highest Test score of 155, and Saeed Anwar's second in successive games.

Inzamam-ul-Haq should have shared in the feast but he was out for 97, his third dismissal in the nineties on this very ground.

So, a feast for the batsmen but as a contest a complete non-starter. Mohammad Bashir, the groundsman who earned fame during the World Cup when England allegedly tried to bribe him with a handful of rupees to let them practice here, should be made to do penance for grossly over-preparing so flat a pitch.

Entering the final day, Australia, 21 for no wicket in their second innings, are 4O runs in front. Taylor did his best to inject some life into the match by declaring at 599 for four, thus sacrificing the chance of passing Brian Lara's highest individual Test innings of 375.

Selfless though his decision was it proved futile, as Taylor always suspected. ``It will take a massive effort to bowl Pakistan out twice on this wicket,'' he said. ``We can't afford to take up any more time at the crease.''

In extreme heat, the Australian attack did relatively well to take seven Pakistan wickets in the day. Unfortunately, Stuart MacGill did not live up to the standard he set with his nine wickets in the win at Rawalpindi and endured a thumping from those brutal hitters, Ijaz and Inzamam.

Some consolation for the leg-spinner came when Ijaz top-edged a ball pitched wide and turned wider. His second was a gift, Yousaf Youhana, banging a long hop to midwicket.

MacGill went for 169 runs in his 42 overs but then Mushtaq Ahmed fared little better against the Australians: 153 in 46.

In Lahore, Rashid Latif gave taped evidence to a judicial commission investigating charges of betting and match-fixing in Pakistan cricket, legal sources saying the former captain submitted a video and audio cassette to Justice Malik Mohammad Qayyum.

The video is expected to show footage of matches that are alleged to have been fixed. The audio cassette is believed to carry a conversation between bookmakers and some cricketers involved in the investigation.

Ramiz Raja, another former Pakistan captain, said his country's cricket is riddled with ``slyness and mistrust'' as a result of the allegations.

Day 5:

By Peter Deeley in Peshawar

As the game fizzled out in a draw, Mark Taylor, too, played on within eight runs of equalling the record set by Graham Gooch at Lord's against India in 1990 of scoring a triple and a single century in the same match. Australia, meanwhile, go into the final Karachi Test on Thursday 1-0 up in the series.

The Australian captain still had no regrets about closing his first knock on 334 and not going after Brian Lara's record of 375. He did admit, however: ``As it turned out I could have gone on for the record since it became such a boring draw. But I wasn't to know that.''

Taylor added: ``But I would do the same again in the next game if necessary.''

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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