The era was at an end. That was undeniably the significant feature of the brief but absorbing visit by Mushtaq Mohammad and his men to Australia, the third tour of Australia by a Pakistan time. Australia heads had been high in the clouds since Ian Chappell's young team levelled the series in England in 1972 and with the emergence of the Lillee-Thomson-Walker pace bowling battery, a certain egotism had emerged, nurtured by the havoc wreaked on Intikhab Alam's 1972-73 Pakistan team (3-0 to Australia), Denness' 1974-75 M.C.C. team (4-1 to Australia) and Clive Lloyd's 1975-76 West Indies team (5-1 to Australia). That all ended on January 18, when Pakistan's opening batsman Majid Khan clipped the winning runs from Walker for Pakistan's first Test victory on Australian soil, at the Sydney Cricket Ground where they had so nearly won in 1972-73. Australia were swept away in just over three days and the harsh realisation dawned on Australians that without Ian Chappell, Redpath, Ross Edwards, Mallett and Jenner - all of whom had retired - their Test team was vulnerable again.
This Pakistan team was a positive joy to entertain in Australia. After the unhappy weeks before the team's arrival when the leading professionals, with the exception of Intikhab Alam, made their stand for greater financial reimbursement, leading to the selection of a touring team and then its immediate disbandment following welcome political intervention and the appointment of a new selection panel, the team immediately impressed all with their spirit of unity and willingness to work hard in the limited time available to prepare for the series of three Tests. The team's management was excellent, with Mushtaq Mohammad and Asif Iqbal being cooperative, agreeable and thoroughly professional as captain and vice-captain, while in their team manager, Colonel Shuja-ud-Din, the tourists had a fearless and willing spokesman, eminently likeable and forthright.
The tour began in arduous circumstances. Not surprisingly, the visitors lost their first game to Western Australia at the W.A.C.A. Ground in Perth, a game which has developed a tradition in recent years as being as hard to win as a Test. Following this gruelling initiation to Australian pitches, the Pakistanis went to Adelaide for the First Test, scarcely acclimatised or prepared adequately for the encounter against what was acclaimed to be the best team in the world. The fates decreed that the game was to be drawn but had Marsh and Cosier made a concerted effort in the last hour when the compulsory 15 overs began with 56 runs required, Australia would have won the series instead of drawing it.
The most dramatic and crucial incident of the series occurred before lunch on the first day of the First Test when Thomson crashed into his team-mate Turner and badly injured his bowling shoulder, a mishap which prevented any further participation by Thomson in the Tests. His absence seriously depleted the Australian attack and though Walker bowled as cleverly and as frugally as ever in the last two Tests as Thomson's replacement, the venom in Australia's new-ball attack was never as dangerous despite Lillee's splendid series.
The Pakistanis arrived with possibly the best batting combination in Test cricket, but by the time of their departure the team had in Imran Khan a fast bowler who had established himself as undoubtedly one of the finest in the world. Imran's speed was comparable to that of Lillee in the Third Test, when he had the magnificent figures of twelve wickets for 165 from 46 overs of sustained pace, aggression and skill. Imran had a splendid ally in Sarfraz Nawaz, but the signs were ominous in Australia that Pakistan needed a third pace bowler to assist in the Test side, Salim Altaf and Asif Masood failing to be the force of their previous tour of Australia, a situation laid bare in the West Indies.
Sadiq Mohammad was unfortunate to be injured in the first game, which caused him to miss the first Test, but he revealed his worth with a century at Melbourne. Mushtaq did not have a distinguished series but in separate ways, Asif Iqbal, Majid Khan and Zaheer Abbas all batted well. Asif saved Pakistan in the first Test with his long, defiant century, and then did much to assure his team of a win in Sydney with another fine hundred. Javed Miandad was inclined to be impetuous, but his aggressive outlook, fine fielding and handsome appearance endeared him to all despite his batting setbacks after his first Test fifty. He redeemed himself with a determined 64 in the Sydney Test.
Haroon Rashid seemed to be a batsman of excellent calibre. His responsible attitude and strokeplay impressed all and his selection in the Test side at Sydney was well-merited. Wasim Raja had few opportunities because of the brief duration of the tour, but made a century against Queensland. Both were excellent fieldsmen in a team of many fine fieldsmen.
Intikhab Alam came and went as if he were not needed or wanted in the team. Although his spirit never waned he remained a pleasant but rather sad figure on the outer, undoubtedly an aftermath of his refusal to stand by Mushtaq, Majid, Sadiq, Imran and the others in their bid for greater tour remuneration. But on tour he backed the team to the hilt.
Apart from the emergence of Imran as a fast bowler of world class and the rapid development of Haroon as a batsman, the most pleasing aspect for the tourists was the ease with which the left-arm orthodox bowler Iqbal Qasim graduated to Test cricket and the assurance with which he accepted the responsibility. Qasim was subtle, accurate and economical, taking four wickets in an innings in the Adelaide Test and seven wickets in the Test at Melbourne. He had little work in Sydney because of the triumphs of the pace men.
If anything, Australia's batting seemed the stronger until the Third Test with Greg Chappell always a menace. Cosier, Davis, McCosker, Walters and Chappell each hit a century in the series by under the stress of the last Test, when there was humidity and movement to be obtained from the Sydney pitch, all but Cosier failed to reach fifty, and the Pakistanis' experience in England stood them in good stead.
Without question, the outstanding individual of the series was Lillee. In the three Tests, he took 21 wickets, his fierce, unquenchable spirit lifting the Melbourne Test from a state of stagnation and an almost certain draw to an apparently effortless victory by 348 runs by Australia. But gradually, learning from their errors and taking advantage of the Australians supreme confidence that they had the series under lock and key, the Pakistanis began asserting themselves and their decisive defeat of their rivals in the final Test by eight wickets to level the series was deserved and highly popular. In fact, it should be pointed out that the Pakistanis' success was greeted with much delight by Australians and the team left these shores with the respect of all and with great goodwill and the support of a new army of well-wishers in their quest for honours in the West Indies.
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