Pakistan and Australia were squaring off in the much hyped bilateral series of 2002, with both the teams having firepower of their own.
The series was level at 1-1 with Australia winning the first game followed by Pakistan’s triumph in the second. The stage was set for an epic finale which would decide the series winners at Brisbane.
Pakistan after scoring a total of 256 in the 50 overs, courtesy half centuries from Saeed Anwar and Yousuf Youhana (now known as Mohammed Yousuf) gave the Pakistani bowlers the perfect platform to exhibit their wicket taking abilities on a hard Gabba wicket.
Australia had got a decent start in the opening ten overs with a score of 44 for the loss of just one wicket. Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponitng were on the crease for Australia. But that’s when Shoaib Akhtar was brought in by captain Waqar Younis to get a wicket or two for his team.
Akhtar in his prime was known for his vicious pace and bounce with a nack of being frequently accurate . Ricky Ponting was on strike ready to face the music from Shoaib Akhtar. The Rawapindi express came steaming in, as the Aussie skipper kept watching him run down the popping crease. Akhtar released the ball with utmost pace and aggression which hit the deck hard outside the off stump region, but zipped back in ferociously after hitting the seam – as it crashed into Ponting’s off stump, while he attempted to play his favorite flick shot – towards mid wicket.
Shoaib Akhtar’s delivery of 151kph was too good for even a quality batsman like Ricky Ponitng to get under.
Darren Lehmann was the next man in for the Aussies. Known for his gritty knocks in the middle order – Lehmann was a batsman, the Pakistan team wanted to get rid of as soon as possible. Shoaib Akhtar was the man in form, as he went on with his spell. The express fast bowler had eyes for Lehmann as he went running in to deliver another peach at an un-blinkable pace of 152 kph. Darren Lehamann shuffled across to glance Akhtar’s pace filled delivery to the fine leg region, but missed completely as the ball struck the leg stump. Australia lost another important wicket; courtesy Shoaib Akhtar’s genuine pace.
Australia were struggling at 62 – 4 at the Gabba. Damien Martin was another Aussie batsman who had it in him to turn the game in favor of the hosts. To the kangaroos misfortune, Shoaib Akhtar still had overs left. Damien Martin tried to counter Akhtar’s pace by cutting a ball in the air which was slightly outside the off stump, but Saeed Anwar was on que waiting for that catch in the third man region as he grasped the ball uneasily, but effectively.
Australia was under the pump after losing half their side for just 65 runs. They were tattering in the third and final game. Michael Bevan was the last recognizable batsman for the Aussies. Bevan had the reputation of winning Australia games while riding crunch situations. Having earned the name of “the finisher,” Shoaib just had to take Bevan’s wicket to push Pakistan close to victory.
Bevan had faced 14 deliveries for his 10 while he came face to face with the fiery Shoaib Akhtar. Survival was the only mode of interest for Bevan, but all of it was short lived as Shoiab Akhtar bowled a quick fire delivery outside the off stump in the corridor of uncertainty to get the dangerous Bevan out – caught behind.
Akhtar was breathing fire, the more wickets he got the more deadly he became. The Aussies had practically surrendered after the fall of Bevans wicket. The score was now on 83 for 6.
But the Rawalpandi Express wasn’t done yet. He wanted a fifer in Australia. He wanted a fifer for his nation at the iconic Gabba on the final match of the series.
Jason Gillespie was the unlucky bloke who had to end up facing Shoaib AKhtar’s 140-150 clicks.
Shoaib Akhtar ran with all his might and bowled a toe crushing yorker to Gillispie, which could have possibly chipped Gillispie’s nail in the process, as the Pakistani’s appealed to the umpire for an LBW decision.
The decision was out – plumb in front, and Shoaib Akhtar had just got done with his genuine spell of pure fast bowling with a banger. Five wickets on Austrlian soil by a pacer who relies on sheer pace and endurance was a treat for viewers in the stadium as well as for those watching from their homes.The Rawalpandi Express’s 5 for 25 in his 8 overs won Pakistan the match and the all important series in Australia’s den.
It was a game where Akhtar terrorized the world beaters with individual brilliance of his own.