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by Saksham Mishra & Cricket World Monday 4 May 2020
It was 1990 and ODI cricket was still played in whites. But unlike the pristine yet unexceptional clothing, there was nothing ordinary about the match in focus. It had all the ebbs and flows which a modern T20 would be proud of.
A team gets off to a good start, but follows it up with a middle order collapse, the lower order batsmen stitch together useful partnerships and take the team to a fighting total. The opposition then gets off to a solid start but is jolted on either end of a middle-order partnership. Just when they seem to be out of the match, a lower order partnership gives them hope. Then a dashing left-arm pacer appears on the scene and finishes things off.
When you are the second-highest ODI wicket taker of all-time with over 500 wickets from 356 matches, when you have already played six years of cricket and have more than a decade of a sparkling career ahead of you and when you have finished with the gold-standard bowling average of 23.52, there are not many series in which you have failed.
The Austral-Asia Cup of 1990 had been one such anomaly for the Sultan of Swing Wasim Akram, until the final. He had featured in only two games until the final and picked up three wickets. The left-arm fast bowler finished the tournament with 6 wickets from 3 innings at an average of 14.83.
It was Waqar Younis who had been the go-to bowler for Pakistan in the tournament. With a match-winning fifer in the semi-final against New Zealand, Waqar had already picked up 15 wickets before the final, to Akram's 3. It was now time for the other W to shine.
Allan Border-led Australia had been playing some exception cricket leading up to the final. They had not lost even one of their last 10 games and were confident of winning the trophy.
Batting first on a flat pitch at Sharjah, Saeed Anwar gave Pakistan a good start with a 36-ball 40 and middle-order batsman Saleem Malik rose to the occasion with a timely 87 off 114 balls, but Pakistan lost their way when pacer Carl Rackemann picked up three big wickets to reduce Pakistan to 179 for six.
Akram, who could have achieved much more with the bat in his career than he ended up doing, took upon himself to take him team to a decent score. The pacer scored a quick-fire 49 not out from 35 deliveries and had an unbroken partnership of 59 for the eighth wicket with Mushtaq Ahmed which took Pakistan to 266.
The opening bursts from Wasim and Waqar were ineffective as Australian openers David Boon and Mark Taylor added 62 runs for the first wicket. However, Waqar was at it again to dismiss Dean Jones (0) and Allan Border (1) in back to back overs. Leggie Mushtaq Ahmed then shook the Australian middle-order. Soon, Australia were stuttering at 207 for seven, needing 59 runs to win.
Ian Healy then joined forces with Mervyn Hughes as the duo added 23 runs for the eighth wicket. It seemed that the Aussies might just sneak to the finish line, with just 33 runs needed to win. It was time for the W to make a re-entry.
After being a little expensive in his first spell, Akram disturbed the timber behind Hughes as he went for the mighty heave-ho. Carl Rackermann failed to put bat on ball on a delivery that sharply cut into him. Third and last was Terry Alderman, who did not make the most wise move by making room on the hat-trick ball. He showed Wasim all the three sticks and Wasim obliged by knocking out the leg stump.
The sensational bowling display helped Pakistan to a 33-run victory as they claimed their second consecutive Austral-Asia Cup. Wasim remains the only cricketer to have taken two hat-tricks in Tests as well as ODIs.
© Cricket World 2020