While Australia Day has become a subject of much divisiveness in recent times, at the Pinch Hitters we believe ther isn’t much more Australian than a long weekend and celebrating great Aussie sporting moments. On this Australia Day, almost two decades into the 21st Century, we look at the best this century has had to offer.
Great Aussie Moments – Meredith’s pick.
I have seen a lot of great cricket matches in the 37 years that I have been watching cricket, and it is in many ways difficult to determine the best. The first test of the 1989 Ashes springs to mind immediately, as suddenly we were good again, with Terry Alderman taking English wickets galore. Both South African clashes in the 1999 World Cup matches, the final super six game but more especially the
The 1999 Hobart test match against Pakistan where we came back from nowhere to chase down 369 when we were 5 down for 126 with an out of form Justin Langer there with Adam Gilchrist in just his 2nd test was also incredible. Then there was the 2008 Sydney test match against India where we needed 3 wickets in 2 overs and the part-time bowler Michael Clarke came in and took all 3 wickets in the same over. But probably the biggest one of all, in terms of how far behind we were and still won was the 2010 Sydney test against Pakistan.
Changing of the guard
Australia in 2010 were not at their best. Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden and Glenn McGrath had all left, and there was nobody really to replace any of them. Ricky Ponting was still there, but he was a long way from his best form. Michael Clarke was still there, when injury allowed him to play. Shane Watson was there, a much better player than anyone appreciated. There was really only one great player to rely on: the legendary Michael Hussey.
Hussey was a legend well before this test, as he was 5 years into his incredible test journey, and he would do many more incredible things after this as well, but this test was his match. The 2010 test versus Pakistan was Michael Hussey’s test. It is to Australia what “Botham’s test” is to England, or “Laxman’s test” is to India. This is one of the incredible test match victories, done, virtually, by one man alone.
Australia won the toss and elected to bat first, which is what you do at the SCG. The problem was that, bar Hussey, Australia had a pretty weak batting line-up, and Pakistan’s bowlers were ferocious. Mohammad Asif pounded in at his terrifying best, supported by Mohammad Sami and Umar Gul, with Danish Kaneria offering wonderful spin bowling support. It was terrifying, and they fairly ripped through us.
The late Phil Hughes and Ricky Ponting were both out with just two runs on the board, while Shane Watson barely lasted any longer, all 3 wickets ripped out by Mohammad Sami before Mohammad Asif took over, with Clarke, Hussey, North, Haddin, Hauritz, and Johnson disappearing in the blink of an eye before Umar Gul came in to take his solitary wicket, that of Doug Bollinger, and a shell-shocked Australia were all out for just 127 runs half-way between lunch and tea on day one.
The terrifying thing is that it would have been even worse if not for a late-order surge from Mitchell Johnson (38) and Nathan Hauritz (21), who added 44 valuable runs for the 8th wicket. To say it was sub-par was an understatement as Pakistan, in reply, piled on a century opening partnership in response, and, while Farhat was out for 53, Pakistan surpassed Australia’s total with just one wicket down.
Pakistan by how many?
The question then was whether Pakistan could threaten an innings victory and the simple answer was that that was the plan, as every player from one to nine got to double figures, something only 4 Australians had managed, and 4 of them surpassed Australia’s top score of 38. Just the same, it could have been worse, as at least nobody got a century and only two got half-centuries, with Mohammad Yousuf (46) and Umar Akmal (49) getting out just before they got to the mark.
With 333 runs on the board, Australia were facing a deficit of 206 runs on the first innings. Pakistan had almost tripled Australia’s score and Australia had to almost double theirs just to avoid an innings defeat. Australia faced it head-on though, with the late Phil Hughes combining well with Shane Watson to add 105 for the first wicket and cut the deficit in half.
Ponting added 39 more with Shane Watson to cut it further to 66 and it felt like we were going for a win, only we had to remind ourselves that this was just to avoid the follow-on. Watson was out for 97, the highest score of the match, then Hussey combined with Clarke for a 58 run fourth wicket partnership that took us past the innings defeat mark and we had a lead.
We were full of hope then that perhaps we could add 200 more somehow and work extra hard to get Pakistan out cheaply, as they had got us out cheaply in the first innings. Only Danish Kaneria had other ideas, ripping through Australia’s middle order as we lost 5 for 40 and the lead was just 51 runs with 2 wickets in hand.
More runs needed.
It was not a tally that was going to win us the match, and it was all down to Michael Hussey, the last of the
Danish Kaneria had four wickets in the innings and was bowling up a storm. He just had to take 1 more for a well-deserved 5-for. Mohammad Asif had taken six wickets in the first innings and was also bowling thunderbolts. Even Mohammad Sami and Umar Gul, who were less impressive, were doing their bit. It was very tough.
Edge. Fell wide. Edge. Fell short. Edge. Dropped. LBW. Turned down.
An Almighty struggle.
Our hearts were in our mouths as we watched it. Both Australia and Pakistan were nervous. It was 11 years before this that Australia had won from nowhere in Hobart, something that both teams remembered well. Neither Gilchrist nor Langer were in this side, though, and it was up to Michael Hussey and Peter Siddle. A far more difficult task, and, worst of all, even if they did do well, they had no idea how much was enough.
The runs came slowly. Hussey got to a point where he stopped farming the strike and Siddle learned somehow to block. Block, run, block, block, chance. Like most Australian fans, I wasn’t sure whether I should be hoping or not. It would have been a lot easier to have given up, to shake hands and congratulate a superior Pakistan team on a job well done. But somehow we survived. The day ended on 8 for 285, with a lead of 79, and we hoped that we could perhaps set a target, with that night’s rest hoping to ease our nerves.
New day dawns.
Day 4 started even more nervously, but then soon we broke free. Somehow we batted better and they bowled worse. While Kaneria still bowled well, the others didn’t really. Heads dropped. Fielders didn’t even dive for chances, as it became a matter of hitting the wickets or not bothering. While we should have been the ones giving up, instead it was Pakistan who gave up. Except for Kaneria. He fought on. It was Kaneria versus Australia. Hussey seemed to have his number but with Siddle there it was less certain.
Runs. Block. Chance. Runs. Block. Chance. The fingernails were completely gone by then, and it was down to other nervous habits. The hands began to shake. Did we dare hope? Finally, Mohammad Asif put in an effort ball, a bouncer, and Peter Siddle was shocked and edged one, which was happily caught. The batsmen didn’t cross but it was the end of the over so Hussey would face.
Dot. Dot. Single. He had to give Bollinger a ball. Every run was vital. Kaneria saw blood, bowled a beautiful ball which spun in. Bollinger shouldered arms and it rocketed into the stumps. Out first ball, leaving Hussey stranded on an incredible 134. Australia had somehow got all the way to 381, a massive improvement from the 127 in the first innings, but would it be enough?
Pakistan start confidently.
To see the confidence of Pakistan’s openers, Imran Farhat and Salman Butt, was a sight to behold, as they sought to reel in the tricky target of 176 with no wickets down, and, for a moment, it looked like they would. Then Farhat was in two minds, fails to follow through with his shot and edged it to Johnson off Bollinger. One for 34. 142 to get. 9 wickets in hand. The fingernails, if there were any left, were gone again.
Number 3 Faisal Iqbal didn’t know what to do with a tricky delivery from Johnson and edged it behind. Two for 50. 126 to get. 8 wickets in hand. It could go either way. Single to Mohammad Yousuf. Identical ball to the set batsman Salman Butt. Identical shot. Identical result. Three for 51. 125 to get. 7 wickets in hand. Are we winning?
Pakistan’s two best batsmen, Mohammad Yousuf and Umar Akmal, were in, and they didn’t look like getting out. Pakistan were going to win by 7 wickets. With each shot it became more inevitable, more obvious.
An unlikely hero
Pakistan knew he wasn’t particularly good too, and to see the disdain from Mohammad Yousuf as he charged down the pitch to hit one back over the bowler’s head for a four or a six was to feel shame that he was the best spin bowler we had. But then, somehow, shockingly, it didn’t happen. Hauritz looked shocked as Yousuf’s smash landed straight back into his chest, which he somehow caught, and it looked like the match had turned.
Misbah ul Haq came and went in two balls, throwing his wicket away as he slashed at one to find the fielder Hussey, who was overjoyed at taking such a simple catch. 5 for 77. 96 to get. Do we dare to dream? The one thing standing in Australia’s way were two brothers named Akmal. One the batsman Umar, the other the wicketkeeper Kamran. If either of them got out then Australia hoped to clean up the tail, but together they could yet get Pakistan there.
26 runs were added. The margin was down to 69. Pakistan were more than half-way there. They had passed the 100. Then Kamran Akmal, trying to undo his poor wicket keeping effort, found himself edging one behind off Johnson, his third wicket in this fashion, and surely it was game over.
The tension builds
69 runs. Four wickets. Australia should win but it was going to be close. Umar Akmal was still there and while he remained there was hope for Pakistan.
30 more runs were added, 28 of them by Umar Akmal, as Mohammad Sami found his way to block, when he was not farming the strike. 40 to win. 4 wickets in hand. Pakistan were probably in front. Not sure.
Got him! Yes! But given not out. DRS, says Haddin. The review goes up. The match is on the line. Fingernails are being bitten by both sides. If this is out then Australia win surely. If not then Pakistan will win.
And the review comes in. It’s out. He hit it. Mohammad Sami has to go. Pakistan are 7 for 133. Just 40 runs to get with three wickets in hand. The match has turned ever so slightly in Australia’s favour.
Pakistan are still a chance while Umar Akmal is there. He’s on 49. Bollinger charges in. Umar Akmal takes him on, but it hits an edge, and, running around, Mitchell Johnson takes the catch! That’s the match!
It’s eight wickets down now, still 40 to get, which is definitely possible, but it never looked likely. While Australia added 123 for the 9th wicket in their innings, that was with Hussey there. Pakistan are down to numbers 9 and 10, Gul and Kaneria.
Kaneria takes Hauritz on, but hits another edge. It still looks like it might clear the boundary but it doesn’t and Watson makes no mistake. 9 for 135. Surely it’s all over. 38 runs still to get.
One more needed
As number 11 Mohammad Asif walks out, the Australian crowd are going crazy. This match, which we were so far behind for so long, we might steal. Here is Asif, the guy who wiped us out on
First ball. Blocks. Second ball. Got him! It’s over! It’s gone! Pakistan are all out! We’ve won this one from nowhere!
Memories of one of the great Aussie moments.
I remember watching this, knowing that our team wasn’t at our peak, and it was the kind of match, the kind of fight, that really gave me hope. Michael Hussey was a legend well before that, but he was going solo just about. Shane Watson did his bit, as did Peter Siddle and Doug Bollinger and in the end so did Nathan Hauritz but it was most definitely Hussey’s test.
It was a match I could watch again and again, now knowing the result so my fingernails are safe. It was like a horror movie where they finally kill the bad guy, right when all hope is lost. This was Hussey’s test, one of the greatest tests of the last 40 years, a great test that makes you proud to be an Australian cricket follower.
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