Challenge 2002: FLASH BACK Colombo Test: Mercurial Pakistan Vs World Champ Australia: A defeat in all gloriousness for Pakistan : A challenge to the then invincible Steve And Company

Challenge: COLOMBO – OCTOBER 5: Shoaib Akhtar celebrates dismissing Adam Gilchrist of Australia during the second session of the third day of the first test match between Pakistan and Australia at the P.Saravanamuttu Stadium in Colombo, Sri Lanka on October 5, 2002. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images.)

There’s only one word to define Pakistan cricket team and that is ‘mercurial’. On a day, they would trump a World Champion and then the very next day they would lose to an unfancied team like Zimbabwe. Even as of writing this article, there’s no change in their outlook as far as playing cricket is concerned.


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Well, I am taking you back to October 2002 when Australia toured ‘Pakistan’ for three-match Test series. Interestingly not a single match was then played in Pakistan. First Test was played in Colombo (Sri Lanka), and the other two in Sharjah. Why Australia refused to play in Pakistan? Well, that’s a story for some other day.

In cricket world, Aussies performance was then going like a dream. They were the world champions, winning the World Cup in 1999 and also were the number one-ranked team in Test cricket. Naturally with all that momentum they drubbed Pakistan 3-0 in 3 Test match series. But don’t misjudge the loser by the scoreline. At least the first Test saw a see-saw battle where Pakistan almost… almost staged an upset win.

Australia Bats First: Challenge begins
Australia batted first after winning the toss and posted a total of 467, thanks to Ricky Ponting’s 141. Ponting was absolutely on the top of his game, making a feast of Waqar Younis & Mohammad Sami’s bowling. He exquisitely played his pulls and hooks, hitting the fence 23 times. He was well supported by opener Justin Langer (72) and later Damien Martyn (67), Adam Gilchrist (66). Australia piled up a mammoth total of 467
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Pakistan Stumble:
Pakistan had the worst possible start as they lost both the openers for a duck but rallied back through Younis Khan (58) and Faisal Iqbal (83). Rashid Latif too played a hand with a solid half century. Pakistan ended up scoring 279, which meant they now trailed behind Kangaroos by 179 runs.

Pakistan Run Through Aussies: Moments of Challenge

By the time second innings began, no one in their wildest of dreams would have given Pakistan a chance but then, you just never know with Pakistan!! Shoaib Akhtar and Saqlain Mushtaq combined well to run through Aussie middle order .Mind you, Australia made a good start with the openers adding 61 runs, but incoming batsman succumbed to the combo of deadly spin & fiery pace attack of Mustaq and Aktar making Australia loosing 5 wickets in just 13 runs: 74 for 5.

Mushtaq took full advantage of the slow and turning wicket of P Sara Oval in Colombo but the ferociousness of Akhtar on a pitch which was graveyard for the pacers was something else. His figures read: 8 over, 2 maidens, 21 for five! He used the art of reverse swing with brilliant effect, removing Mark Waugh and his brother Steve Waugh with beauties. Then came the unplayable yorker that quickly showed Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne, the door of pavilion. Equally devastating was Mustaq’s spell with 4 wickets for 46 run. Australia got all out for 127 run. The highest individual score belonged to Mathew Hayden’s 34 run.

Pakistan let the victory slip away: 40 runs in need:
With 316 to chase, Pakistan had a wonderful start. Opener Taufeeq Umar looked brilliant as he drove Brett Lee through covers. The opening stand was 91 runs which meant that quarter of the job was done. All-rounder Abdur Razzak was promoted to number three but the experiment failed. Pakistan kept losing wicket but Umar slammed 88.

The chase was also guided by Younis Khan (51) and Faisal Iqbal (39) but once Khan departed, the lower order crumbled. From 230/5, they were bundled out for 274. A collapse of especially lower middle order batsman fizzled out the ‘victory mision’ of Pakistan. Credit must go to Shane Warne who grabbed four wickets for 94 runs and never lost his calm even after the early onslaught from Pak opener. While Australia got over the stiff challenge from Pakistan, the loser must have been terribly upset having lost by a slender margin.


The match turned out to be a great spectacle of Test cricket, the margin of loss 41 runs also told a story that Australia were not totally unstoppable. Other Cricket playing countries’ teams might have taken a lesson from this match and understood that to beat Australia, they need to fire in unison. Acts of Individual brilliance won’t be enough against the World Champions.

Although Australia’s dominance continued for the next five years as they won 2003 and 2007 World Cups, but teams got a hold of their lacunas and in 2004, India under Sourav Ganguly even held them to 1-1 scoreline in a four match Test series in their own backyard. Who knows Dada would have thought: “If Pak can run them closer, so can we”.

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