A look into the history: By Khurram Zia Khan

Pakistan on its recent tour of Zimbabwe came back well to win the one off test. Victory was a distant possibility once Zimbabwe scored 412 but firstly batsman batted well and then bowlers specially spinners exploited the deteriorating pitch and same at one stage was reeling at 80 for 8 and it was expected that victory will be achieved on the fourth day but the age old 9th wicket syndrome came to hurt Pakistan and delay the inevitable at the end of day’s play Zimbabwe were130 for the loss of 8 wickets. They were 81 runs ahead and some optimistic cricket critics start comparing this with the Sydney test of January 2011 but on the final day bowlers complete the job and Pakistan achieve victory with ease. Pakistan’s test history includes some more 9th wicket partnerships which either delay the victory or change the scenario completely and Pakistan’s possible victory was turned into a defeat. Sydney 2011 is a very recent example where 9th wicket partnership change the whole scenario of the match but for young cricket followers, I want to discuss about the Dunedin test played between Pakistan & Newzealand from February 9-14,1985.Pakistan reach Newzealand on a high after winning the preceding home test series by a margin of 2-0.Also Newzealand is a happy hunting country for Pakistan as it was in Newzealand that Pakistan achieve its first overseas test series victory .Coming back  to the series in review, I just want to remind readers that those were good old days of radio commentary and ardent cricket fans use to wake up at 2:30 am to follow live cricket from Newzealand.I was in school at that time and get very little sleep because of the match timings. Those were the days when we made judgment of an umpire’s decision only by listening to the commentators and the experienced commentators of those days the likes of Iftikhar Ahmed, Muneer Hussain & Chisti Mujahid expressed the whole situation in a manner which gives listeners feeling as if they are part of the crowd at the ground.

Pakistan reaches Dunedin 1-0 down in the series after losing at Auckland & drawing the wellington test because of weather& some gritty batting. Wasim Akram made his debut at Auckland and his performance in Dunedin test gave clear signal to cricketing fraternity that a star is unearthed.

Coming back to the match in discussion, Newzealand won the toss and put Pakistan into bat on a greenish wicket hoping that Pakistan once again be dismissed at a meager total like the first innings of Auckland test but this time batsman batted with lot more sensibility & grit and Pakistan score 274 in its first innings with Qasim Omer being the top scorer with …..runs. At one stage Pakistan was 241 for 2 and it was felt that Pakistan will reach a mammoth first innings total but around this time Newzealand got the  second new ball and Pakistan’s wickets start falling like nine pins and 241/2 quickly become 251/7at the end of first day’s play. Early on day 2 Pakistan’s first inning completed and Newzealand start its batting. It was expected that Kiwis will overtake Pakistan’s total with ease as they possess a strong batting line up and most of their batsman were inform but it did not happen infect Pakistan gain a lead of 54 runs thanks to an excellent spell by Wasim Akram in only the 2nd test of his career.

Pakistan’s 2nd inning also follow the pattern of 1st innings and after a strong start innings did not last long enough to post a huge total as Pakistan were all out for 223 which left Newzealand to score 278 to win the match and clinch series against Pakistan after long time .Qasim Omer made a gutsy 94 in Pakistan’s 2nd innings. Many Newzealand commentators felt that this time round there team will bat well to overhaul this total with ease but little did they know what was to follow although the end result was according to their desire. Newzealand’s 2nd innings follow the pattern of first innings and wickets continue to tumble regularly. At one stage Newzealand lost 4 wickets for only 23 runs but a stubborn partnership between Martin Crowe & Jermy Coney of 157 runs truly put the kiwis on the path of victory . Once that partnership was broken, wickets again start  falling quickly and fall  of each wicket making me happy and also raising the prospects of a series leveling victory.   Newzealand’s score was 228 when they lost their 8th wicket. Lance Cairns was retired hurt after he was struck by Wasim Akram’s bouncer early on the 5th day. It was practically a situation where Pakistan was one wicket away from victory and Kiwi’s required another 47 runs for victory. Ian Chatfield walks in to Partner Jermy Coney and he was a real tail ender and now the responsibility lie on Coney to take the kiwis through to the victory. It was 06:30am in the morning in Pakistan and I have to start preparation for my school in an hour’s time where as at the ground tea break was 75 minutes awake. I was optimistic that Pakistan will take the 9th wicket soon and win the match but that was not happening. Runs  were  coming though at a slow pace but every run was taking the kiwis close to their target and increasing pressure on Pakistan and in that pressure our fielding showed signs of cracks and dropped couple of catches one of the of Coney who was not only scoring runs but masterfully shielding Chatfield from the bowling. Whenever Chatfield face the bowling, hopes of Pakistan’s victory rekindle but that day he was in real defiance mould and was not ready to shy away from the contest. Time and over’s’ tick by and Newzealand went to tea at 254/8, 21 runs away from victory. Me in school now and was totally unaware of match  situation and for some hours was hoping that the magic ball must have arrived by now and gave Pakistan the much deserved victory but two hours later, through a teacher of mine, I came to know that the expected magic ball never arrived instead the 9th wicket Syndrome came back to haunt Pakistan and once again because of a resilient 9thwicket partnership, Pakistan’s victory march was halted and a match in which on many occasions specially on the last day strong victory possibility exist on many occasions ended in a defeat. Defeat overshadowed Wasim Akram’s brilliant bowling who was given man of the match award for getting 10 wickets in the match. This was a real depressing defeat and for me as a fan of Pakistan’s cricket it was the first of many experiences where late order partnership turns the match upside down. Going through the history of Pakistan cricket one found many disturbing late wicket partnerships and it seems that may be  our bowlers and fielders after strangling the opponents lose focus and start thinking beyond the situation and allow the late order batsman to settle down and hurt them. Lower order resistant is a common thing in cricket and many nations face this situation but Pakistan as per my analysis is a team that faces this phenomenon more than any other nation. Time now come to insert high level of professionalism among our players to overcome this menace of frequent late order partnerships that on many occasions halt our victory march and at times convert a certain victory into a frustrating defeat.

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