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Pakistan vs Australia 1st Test: North Spins Australia To Massive Win

By on July 17, 2010

Australia 253 and 334 (Katich 83, Hilfenhaus 56*, Gul 4-61) beat Pakistan 148 and 289 (Butt 92, North 6-55, Smith 3-51) by 150 runs…

Marcus North claimed the remarkable figures of 6 for 55 to join Shane Watson on the brand-new neutral honours board at Lord’s, while Steven Smith chipped in with three key scalps in his first innings as a Test bowler, as Pakistan hurtled to defeat by 150 runs on the fourth afternoon of the first Test against Australia.

Set an improbable 440 for victory, Pakistan began their chase boldly through the efforts of Salman Butt, who made a fluent 92 in a 102-run stand for the second wicket with the debutant Azhar Ali, and at 152 for 1 with more than five sessions of the match remaining, there was an outside chance of a miracle taking place. But North’s introduction transformed the contest shortly before lunch.

With his eyes lighting up as North floated his first delivery gently towards his pads, Butt toppled out of his crease to be stumped down the leg-side by Tim Paine, before Umar Akmal jabbed a lifter to slip on the stroke of lunch. With wickets continuing to slip away thereafter, the last vestige of Pakistani hope vanished when the captain Shahid Afridi slapped his fourth delivery down the throat of deep midwicket for 2 – a shot which doubtless contributed to his post-match declaration that next week’s Headingley Test would be his last.

Bowling unchanged from the Nursery End for 18 overs straight, North’s seemingly innocuous offspinners proved too tempting for an impetuous Pakistan line-up, who found a succession of unworthy ways to fling their wickets away. Umar Amin was impressively snaffled by the Man of the Match, Simon Katich at short leg, but in the same over, Afridi’s hoick towards the Grandstand boundary was brainless in the extreme, as Mike Hussey steadied himself well to pouch a skier just inside the rope.

At 229 for 6, there was little hope of Pakistan coming back into the contest, let alone dig in for the draw, although Kamran Akmal and Mohammad Aamer defied their fading expectations in a 54-run stand for the seventh wicket than spanned 19 overs. But when Ricky Ponting freed up the leg-side boundary to tempt Akmal into a mow, the effect was instantaneous. Smith slipped in a quicker ball to peg back his middle stump, as the last four wickets tumbled for six runs in 26 deliveries.

Ponting by now had the new ball at his disposal, but he saw no need to change the pattern of the session, especially with bright sunshine overhead and little prospect of swing. It took five more deliveries for Aamer to pick out Hussey at deep midwicket with a slog-sweep – only moments after the fielder had been waved into position – before Smith claimed a third courtesy of Umar Gul, who wafted a leading edge to Ponting at short cover. One over later, the deed was done, as Danish Kaneria patted a tame drive to Ponting once again, to leave North in possession of the best figures ever by an Australian spinner at Lord’s.

The last rites came in a rush, but Pakistan had made Australia work hard for much of the day’s play. After a confident start to a mountainous run-chase on Thursday evening, they had resumed on 114 for 1, still requiring an improbable 326 to make history and end a run of 12 consecutive defeats at the hands of the Aussies. But the overnight pair of Butt and Azhar showed no signs of anxiety as they racked up 48 runs in the first ten overs of the day under moderately overcast skies that always promised to clear up as the day progressed.

Butt, who resumed on 58 not out, was once again the main source of Pakistani optimism, as he cashed in on a wayward first spell from Mitchell Johnson to slash four fours over the covers in the space of 10 deliveries, before angling the first ball of Watson’s spell through third man for another boundary. Following on from his first-innings 63, the innings briefly carried his Test average against Australia past the 50 mark.

But slowly as first, and then with increasing confidence, Australia made their weight of runs count on a brittle Pakistani line-up. Though Azhar continued the composed performance he had begun the previous evening, he was always on the defensive against Ben Hilfenhaus, against whom he squirted consecutive boundaries through the gully before, on 42, snicking a perfect outswinger to Paine behind the stumps.

Hilfenhaus’s rhythm was disrupted one over later when he dived awkwardly at third man and jarred his left shoulder on the turf, but with the weather now brightening up immeasurably, his job for the day was as good as done. Into the attack came North, and out of his crease toppled Butt, whose quest to become the first centurion in a neutral Test at Lord’s for 98 years ended in an agonising fashion.

It was the opening that Australia needed. Ponting’s persistence with North suited the new man, Umar Akmal, just fine, as he climbed onto the offensive in his typically uninhibited manner, smacking a six and a four back over the bowler’s head in consecutive overs to move to 22 from 30 deliveries. But the lure of easy runs came at a price, as Umar and his middle-order team-mates would soon discover to their cost.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

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