Pakistan’s story at Pindi Cricket Stadium

Updated December 11, 2019

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Sri Lankan cricket players attend a training session for the first cricket test match against Pakistan at Pindi stadium in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on Tuesday. — AP
Sri Lankan cricket players attend a training session for the first cricket test match against Pakistan at Pindi stadium in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on Tuesday. — AP

RAWALPINDI: The last time Pakistan hosted a Test at the Pindi Cricket Stadium it turned out to be one miserable tale of woes for them. The visitors happened to arch-rivals India who not just inflicted the biggest defeat on the host nation at this venue, but also made history by winning their maiden series victory on the Pakistan soil.

Sourav Ganguly, the Indian captain, was vindicated by his decision to field first in the eighth Test to be staged in the garrison city as Pakistan crumbled for 224 in their first outing at the crease — with tailender Mohammad Sami top-scoring with 49 from No.8 before being last out, run out by Irfan Pathan. The pace trio of Laxmipathy Balaji (4-63), Pathan and Ashish Nehra took eight wickets between them.

India’s reply was based around a monumental innings from the elegant Rahul Dravid. The vice-captain not only recorded the highest individual score in the garrison city but also helped the tourists to the biggest team total. Occupying the crease in his customary fashion for 12 hours and 20 minutes, the right-handed run-machine from Bangalore piled on the agony for Pakistan by reaching an epic 270 from 495 deliveries.

Aided by excellent support from makeshift opener Parthiv Patel, V.V.S. Laxman and Ganguly himself, Dravid was involved in century partnerships with each of them, while India eventually built a commanding lead of 376 by posting exactly 600 against a bowling line-up featuring the hometown fast-bowling demon Shoaib Akhtar and spinner Danish Kaneria.

The host team fared marginally better but still got walloped by an innings and 131 runs inside four days to suffer its biggest-ever defeat. Barring Mohammad Yousuf (48) and Asim Kamal (60 not out), it was a regular procession of batsmen getting dismissed as spinner Anil Kimble snared four wickets and Balaji bagged three more.

Sri Lanka, Pakistan’s opponents in the impeding Test match, have a psychological advantage against Pakistan at this ground because way back in February-March 2000, the team led by Sanath Jayasuriya sealed a two-wicket win that eventually set up a memorable series triumph.

Aravinda de Silva, one of the finest batting stars to come from the tiny island, starred with a sterling 112 as the visitors gained a substantial lead of 171 on the first innings.

Muttiah Muralitharan, Test cricket’s highest wicket-taker, also played a pivotal role with four wickets apiece across the two innings. But the find of that match was Younis Khan, who launched his glittering career with a second-innings contribution of 107 before Sri Lanka almost threw it away while chasing 220 in the fourth innings.

In the first-ever Test hosted at this ground in December 1993, Pakistan faced strong resistance against a plucky Zimbabwe side before finally getting over the line by 52 runs. Waqar Younis played a lead role with nine wickets after the visitors were on course for a shock win when Mark Dekker and Alastair Campbell put on 135 for the second wicket in pursuit of a gettable target of 240.

The 1994 Test in October 1994 will always be remembered for Damien Fleming’s hat-trick on debut and Pakistan captain Saleem Malik’s marathon 237 in 443 minutes during the second innings after the hosts were forced to follow on by Australian skipper Mark Taylor.

Another debutant to leave his impression at the Pindi Cricket Stadium was speedster Mohammad Zahid who destroyed New Zealand with figures of 4-64 and 7-66 — the first Pakistani to claim 10 or more wickets in his maiden Test — as Pakistan trounced the visitors by an innings and 13 in November/December to square the two-match rubber.

The next Test at this venue was when South Africa played in October 1997. And although the match was drawn it was highlighted by debut tons from opener Ali Naqvi and local boy Azhar Mahmood.

Aamir Sohail and Inzamam-ul-Haq both hit centuries in a record stand for Pakistan against West Indies just a couple of months after the South Africa Test. Inevitably, the hosts rain out easy winners by innings and 29 runs on their way to a 3-0 whitewash of the visiting team.

Australia overwhelmingly dominated the October 1998 Test in which the tourists annihilated Pakistan by innings and 99 runs — a result that was enough for Taylor’s charges to win the series, thanks largely to Steve Waugh, who excelled with 157 while spinner Stuart MacGill captured nine wickets.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2019