Wasim Akram celebrates the fall of Wavell Hinds' wicket

De-waz-tating: Akram celebrates the wicket of Wavell Hinds off the last ball on day four

© AFP

I Was There

'I'll never talk about that Test without paying tribute to Wasim Akram'

Jimmy Adams, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Wasim and Saqlain Mushtaq remember the Test where Pakistan almost made history in the West Indies

Interviews by Danyal Rasool and Nagraj Gollapudi  |  

At 10.05 am on May 29, 2000, in St John's, Antigua, West Indies needed 72 runs to win the last Test and the series against Pakistan. It was the last day of the three-Test series, locked 0-0. Jimmy Adams, the West Indies captain, stood between Pakistan and history, as Moin Khan's team attempted to record their country's first Test series win in the Caribbean.

Early on the final morning, Adams was left with just the quartet of fast bowlers for batting support. The result finally arrived at 2.20 pm in the afternoon. Through the intervening hours, the match dangled on a knife's edge.

Adams had put Pakistan in to bat first. As they had in the first two Tests, the visitors started badly. But at 33 for 3 they were still in a better place than they had been in in Guyana (39 for 5) and in Barbados (37 for 5) .

Inzamam-ul-Haq, Pakistan batsman: Some pitches in West Indies are very quick, but on some you get more uneven bounce and the ball keeps low. This pitch was of the latter kind. It was very difficult to play against the new ball here.

Mohammad Wasim, Pakistan opener: I suppose it was disappointing that after all that good work in Barbados, neither Imran [Nazir] nor I could really get going in either innings, but there was more bounce in the pitch early on and we didn't have the experience to deal with that at times. They had a brilliant pace attack and against the new ball on a hard deck it was sometimes hard to cope. Even the West Indies openers didn't manage many runs.

"Wasim Akram said to us, 'I will bring you guys back in this match.' He had that attitude where he showed us what to do by leading from the front" Mohammad Wasim

Jimmy Adams, West Indies captain: Historically, if there was going to be anything in the pitch usually it is only on the first morning. We figured we would try and exploit that, that early sort of moisture. The Antigua wicket was hard enough - as in, it would last, it wouldn't crumble, but it would just get flatter and flatter. With [Courtney] Walsh and [Curtly] Ambrose and Reon King, we figured that if we could get early wickets, it might set up a result for us. I am normally somebody who would want to bat first, but I was happy with the decision [to bowl first] - that was our best chance to give ourselves victory.

Brian [Lara] wasn't playing. Wavell Hinds and [Ramnaresh] Sarwan were just starting out, so we had quite a few youngsters in key positions. What I can remember was just a sense of anticipation for us. We knew it was a big Test looking at the quality of players Pakistan had brought.

It was once again left to Pakistan's two best batsmen in the series - Mohammad Yousuf (then Youhana) and Inzamam to pull Pakistan out of trouble. The Player of the Match in the rain-affected first Test in Guyana with a century, Inzamam was one of four Pakistan players in that XI to be censured in the Justice Qayyum match-fixing report made public a day before the Test; not that he showed any signs of being under pressure. He even had the temerity to pull Ambrose for a six to register his half-century.

Inzamam: On uneven pitches, if you stay on the back foot, it gets difficult to negotiate very tall bowlers, but it's also difficult for tall batsmen like myself. Fortunately, if you look at my record against West Indies, it has been a fairly good one. I backed myself to play fast bowling well, and I think that reflects in my numbers throughout my career. I remember the six I hit against Ambrose. He was really stingy, gave absolutely no runs away. I knew I had to attack him whenever he came on. He would give nothing away if I just sat back and waited. I wanted to take advantage of any ball that was in an area I could attack. That ball was in such an area, and the six actually went out of the stadium. It was just an example of what you needed to do against good fast bowling in the West Indies.

Pakistan finished the first day on 267 for 8, courtesy Yousuf's second century in the series. Adams and Shivnarine Chanderpaul took the hosts to 214 for 3 by the end of the second day. On the third morning, taking six wickets in 28 balls and conceding just four runs, Wasim Akram made sure West Indies only took a four-run lead. At stumps on the third day, Pakistan were 157 for 5, with Yousuf unbeaten on 41 in the second innings. Inzamam had departed a short while before for 68, when umpire Billy Doctrove upheld a caught-behind decision off King. Inzamam lingered a mite too long at the crease, and was fined 50% of his match fee for dissent.

Sweet as: Jimmy Adams didn't even get to 50 in his second-innings knock, but he rates the performance higher than many of his Test hundreds

Sweet as: Jimmy Adams didn't even get to 50 in his second-innings knock, but he rates the performance higher than many of his Test hundreds © AFP

Inzamam: I wasn't happy with the decision. I didn't agree with the umpire, but there was more to it. The cameraman filming was also from the West Indies, and he reacted to the dismissal in a way that I didn't like. I didn't react to the umpire or to the West Indies players. The reaction I showed was directed at him instead. I was fined 50% of my fee, but the cameraman should have been fined 100% for his conduct.

Adams: It became a one-innings game. The question was for us to try and limit Pakistan, who were obviously looking for a 250-plus target.

With West Indies back in to bat, chasing 216, Akram once again was pivotal. He picked up three of the four West Indies wickets that fell on day four, including the one of Hinds with the last delivery of the day. The 23-year-old Jamaican had been the only West Indies batsman to make a century in the series, in Barbados, and he was looking good for another when he chose the wrong stroke against a short delivery.

Adams: It was a bouncer from Wasim that Wavell pulled onto the stumps. I was at the other end and I have never forgotten that shot; I tease Wavell about it regularly still.

Wavell was an attacking player. He was in good form and whenever there was a bad ball it got hit for four by him. He played the ball and not the name. He was threatening to take the game away from Pakistan pretty quickly, until he got out.

Mohammad Wasim: There was a catch on the fourth evening off Hinds that I couldn't hold on to in the slips. But with the ball getting old, reverse swing was always on the cards. And Wasim Akram said to us, "I will bring you guys back in this match." He had that attitude where he showed us what to do by leading from the front. When the ball started reversing, we got the belief that if we could get some early wickets, we would come into the match strongly. That's what happened.

West Indies needed 72 runs to win on the final day, but though they had six wickets in hand, Pakistan had Akram.

"Younis Khan still appears in my dreams, where I tell him: 'Don't you know how to throw the ball? Throw it straight into my hands instead of awkwardly bouncing it off the wicket.'" Saqlain Mushtaq on muffing a pivotal run-out

Saqlain Mushtaq, Pakistan offspinner: Overnight, our strategy was to attack, instead of trying to stop the runs. We had attacking options in myself and Wasim, so we did the bulk of the bowling.

Adams: Wasim was at a different level in that game because he was reversing it. I remember [Ridley] Jacobs going quickly, Ambrose going quickly, Reon King going quickly.

With the last ball before lunch on day five, Mushtaq removed Ambrose, who was playing his farewell Test on his home ground.

Adams: I don't think he [Ambrose] knew at the time. He hadn't made a decision on Test cricket yet. Emotionally he struggled on that England tour which was immediately after the Pakistan series. It was on that tour that he decided that he had had enough and that he wasn't going to continue.

When last man Walsh joined Adams, West Indies were 19 runs adrift. Walsh had a record 36 Test ducks to his name at the time. The second ball he faced, against Mushtaq, he was caught bat-pad, which TV replays confirmed. But umpire Doug Cowie disagreed. West Indies lived on, at 200 for 9.

Adams: When Walsh came in, I remember telling him that the only chance we had was for him not to face Wasim. He said fine, and that he would do the best he could against Saqlain or whoever else it was from the other end. I told him, "Look, either it will work or it won't work, but it's going to take time. I'm going to refuse runs because I'm going to try not to have you face Wasim."

Early on in the partnership, the crowd started to give us a hard time because we were refusing runs. Pakistan were spreading the field, offering me the single in the hope of having Courtney facing Wasim. It took the locals a while to start to cotton on to what we were trying to do.

Adams and Walsh (right) walk off the field after a surreal victory

Adams and Walsh (right) walk off the field after a surreal victory Gordon Brooks / © AFP

Four runs later, both Adams and Walsh found themselves in the popping crease at the striker's end, where Moin had taken the bails off. Adams made a desperate dash towards the other end, where Mushtaq spilled the throw.

Pakistan were livid: exactly the same sequence had played out earlier in the game, when Adams and Ambrose found themselves at the same end. West Indies were 188 for 7 then.

Adams: (Laughs) I can't remember where the ball went. All I know is that Courtney was ball-watching. I just thought at some point he would actually look at me and run. I said to him, "Courtney, you've got longer legs than me, so you need to try and get up to the next end." And Courtney was telling me: "Well, I might have longer legs, but you are still quicker. So you give it your best shot."

The throw went back to Saqlain and he muffed it. It just went through him. I can't remember where the ball came from, but I remember trying to get back. I mean, I was nowhere.

At that point, Courtney and I were just laughing because there was no pressure on us. We had a plan and either the plan would work or it wouldn't. We had gone past worrying about the outcome. We were just living in the moment.

It was just a weird morning of Test cricket. Very, very weird. With Curtly it was the same. The only difference there was, the throw might have been a bit more difficult, as it came off a bad length. But twice we were stranded at one end and twice Pakistan conspired somehow to not run out one or both of us. It was all happening.

Mushtaq: I can never forget those two moments. Younis Khan, who threw the ball to me both times, still appears in my dreams. And in the dream I tell him: "Don't you know how to throw the ball? Throw it straight into my hands instead of awkwardly bouncing it off the wicket." The throws bounced at an angle where I couldn't go on the front foot or the back foot to collect it cleanly.

I had had surgery on both my knees a year before, and they had begun to hurt on the fifth day as I had bowled a lot of overs. When pressure ramps up, all these little niggles begin to be felt more too. The throw was so awkward, only a wicketkeeper could have collected it cleanly.

"As soon I got the winning single, I went for a big run around, a big slide and the whole Paul-Gascgoine-in-a dentist-chair celebration. I remember the whole dressing room emptying out and everybody on the field" Jimmy Adams

The final drinks break arrived with West Indies just four runs away from an improbable win.

Adams: After the missed run-out opportunity, in between balls Courtney and I would be saying funny things to each other because the match had gone into the realm of the surreal.

I think [the winning run] was against Wasim. I stabbed it somewhere; it was a defensive prod, might have been inside-edged. I just remember looking up and seeing Courtney halfway down the pitch. I knew he would be safe, I just needed to get up to the other end as quickly as possible.

The umpires had had a torrid time. Doctrove, who was making his debut, and Cowie, made more than one mistake apiece.

Inzamam: When Adams nicked the ball through to Moin, we knew the edge had been brushed, so we started to celebrate. We thought we had done the job and made history by winning a Test series in the West Indies for the first time ever.

Mushtaq: Wasim and I were sitting in the dressing room after the game talking to each other when the umpire came to say sorry. And I said to Wasim, "What's the point of the apology now the match has gone?" People make mistakes, but what hurts is that it goes down in the record books as a defeat.

Adams: I don't believe in luck, to be fair. I got a reprieve in that Test, but I was given out caught behind off Saqlain in one of the previous Tests where there was daylight between ball and bat. I wouldn't say West Indies were lucky. We played some good cricket ourselves going into that Test match and that is a tribute to the West Indies squad, because Pakistan had a better and more talented team, at least on paper.

Pakistan were hurting, and none more than Akram, who finished the match with 11 wickets, just two short of 400 wickets. Adams, leading in his second series as captain, was ecstatic.

Adams: As soon I got the winning single, I went for a big run around, a big slide and the whole Paul-Gascgoine-in-a dentist-chair celebration, which was in vogue at the time. I remember the whole dressing room emptying out and everybody on the field.

For West Indies it was a good end to a very tight Test match. But I will never discuss that Test without paying tribute to Wasim. He is the best fast bowler I have ever played, not just in that Test, but in my career. I put more value on that 48 than probably most of my Test hundreds because of the situation, the pressure, the quality of the bowling.

Pakistan got two opportunities [to use] basic cricket skills to finish the game: catch a ball, take the bail off, game over. And they failed to do that under pressure. Is that unlucky? I don't know. What it was, though, it was a good advert for Test cricket. Great game in the end.

 

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