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Comment: Not easy to rise when you are two-nil down

FACED with the prospect of a whitewash against Australia, captain Misbah-ul-Haq and his charges would be desperate to avoid what could be yet another embarrassing outing in this three-match Test series at Sydney..

Having put up a gutsy run chase in the first Test at Gabba where they came so near and yet remained a breath away from an epic win they buckled under pressure at Melbourne’s second Test despite a fine double century by Azhar Ali, to lose by an innings and with it the series.

It is not an encouraging thought for the third and final Test starting today at Sydney when I consider how poorly Pakistan bowled at the MCG and how, in a gutless display of batting, they perished under pressure.

Sydney Cricket Ground is as much a historic venue as is the MCG. A guided tour of the ground like at the MCG reveals its importance in Australian sports.

It was here that Pakistan achieved its first win in Australia in a Test on their 1976-77 tour when they beat the hosts by eight wickets as Imran Khan announced his arrival as a fast bowler by taking 12 wickets in the match for 165 runs.

Having changed his bowling action at Sussex with the help of England fast bowler John Snow, Imran developed himself as a match-winner with his pace and movement of the ball to demolish the Aussies. Asif Iqbal in that game scored a brilliant 120.

Pakistan were left to make just 32 in the second innings and were two wickets down for 22 when Majid Khan took charge to make a breezy 26 as they went past the post.

My first visit to this ground with Pakistan was in 1983 when we lost the Test by ten wickets. It was the last Test of great fast bowler Dennis Lillee, Rodney Marsh, Greg Chappell and our own Wasim Bari. A few of them announced their retirements during the Test and a couple after it was over.

Chappell hit a hundred in the first match of the series at the Gabba and 182 in his last innings to become the first man to make a hundred on his debut and in his last innings in a Test.

I also remember an incident of the Sydney Test involving our radio commentator Omar Kureishi. Chappell during his hundred hit a lofted on drive which fell ten yards in front of fielder Abdul Qadir who jumped in the air to save a boundary. Kureishi misjudged it and started criticising Qadir for dropping a simple catch.

I could not take it anymore and walked out of press box to drop a note for him, telling him it was not a catch. My reminder was scornfully ignored. But five minutes later when Henry Bloefeld, commenting for a local radio, told him so, he felt humiliated.

I was, however, privileged to see Pakistan win a Test in Sydney in 1995, the last time Pakistan won a Test in Australia. Having lost at Gabba and Hobart, Pakistan had come to this venue facing a whitewash but won the Test by 74 runs.

It mainly due to a blazing century by Ijaz Ahmed (137) and leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed’s fabulous spin bowling as he captured 9 for 186, supported well, of course, by Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.

It was here that in 1991 prior to the 1992 World Cup that I covered a series against India and covered Shane Warne’s Test debut when he took only one wicket for 150 runs in 45 overs. I thought he will not make it but then cricket can prove you wrong and he ended up as the most successful leg-spinner in history.

Ravi Shastri in that Test had scored 206 and Sachin Tendulkar 148 as the match petered out to a draw.

Besides Don Badman, Bill Orielly, Victor Trumper and the Waugh brothers who all played here — one character who made the SCG famous was its barracker and heckler ‘Yabba’ (Stephen Harold Gascoigne) whose statue along with cricketing greats decorates the ground.

Yabba’s voice would reverberate round the ground as he shouted from the Sydney Hill stand at Bradman, Douglas Jardine and to many others.

During the infamous bodyline series of 1932, he shouted at the England captain Jardine, ‘Leave out flies alone. They are the only friends you have.’ He shouted at another batsman batting at a snail pace,, ‘I wish you were statue and I was a pigeon.’

It was here that Bradman made 452, a first class record which Hanif Mohammad eclipsed by making 499 and later Brian Lara broke it with an epic 501.

The venue also is a scene of two 5-0 Ashes clean sweep in 2007 and 2012. It was here that Warne made his debut and ended his career in 2012.

Australian captain Michael Clarke made a triple century and sadly it was here that Phillip Hughes, after being struck at the back of his neck with a Sean Abbott bouncer, succumbed to death last year.

Pakistan are not alien to this ground and one hopes they pull up their socks and end the series on a positive note.

Courtesy : Dawn News

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