It is a cliché that Pakistan cricket team has always been an unpredictable unit. It can lose matches from strong positions and win matches unexpectedly. But we can’t do without saying it because that is the ultimate truth.
If the men in green have lost matches from very good positions, they have also snatched victories from the jaws of defeat. Let’s recall some of those delightful turnarounds.
It was a ICC World T20 championship match in 2012 in Colombo. South Africa had scored 133. Pakistan had lost seven wickets for 76 in the 15th over. Only Umar Akmal was left from among the recognized batsmen. Many thought it was game over for Pakistan. But Umar Gul played the best innings of his career. He scored 32 runs off just 17 balls, hitting three sixes and two fours. Pakistan won by two wickets with two balls remaining. It was a remarkable feat against an opposition that had Dale Steyn, the two Morkels, and Jacques Kallis.
Although Umar Akmal stayed till the last, scoring 43 runs, it was Gul who got the man-of-the-match award.
Pakistan had scored only 215 in the final of Singer Cup in 1996 in Singapore, a meager total against the powerful batting line of Sri Lanka. And Sanath Jayasuriya was on fire, hitting fours and sixes like he was playing against club level bowlers.
But the game changed. From 70 without loss they tumbled to 106 for five as Saqlain Mushtaq and Aaqib Javed struck.
Although Saqlain was struck for more than six runs an over (he conceded 46 in his seven overs), he claimed the most important wickets of Aravinda de Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga, both caught by wicketkeeper Rashid Latif. He received great support from Waqar Younis and Ata-ur-Rehman and Sri Lanka were all out for 172 in the 33rd over, losing the match by 43 runs.
Saqlain was deservedly declared man of the match. He became the first choice spinner for Pakistan in place of Mushtaq Ahmed.
In October 1999, Abdul Razzaq took five wickets to save Pakistan from what looked like a certain defeat.
Pakistan had scored only 196. And Sri Lanka had crossed 170 for the loss of just two wickets. Shoaib Malik removed Russell Arnold and Wasim Akram dismissed Aravinda and Jayasuriya.
But avoiding defeat still looked nearly impossible since Sri Lanka needed only 20 more runs and had five wickets. But Abdul Razzaq went on a rampage. He got Mahela Jayawardene caught behind and then bowled three batsmen to tie the match (Muralitharan was run out by Shoaib Malik in the penultimate over).
At the end of the fourth day’s play in Mohali in 2005, Pakistan’s defeat looked certain. In their second innings, they had lost their six specialists batsmen with a lead of only 53 runs against India.
But what happened the next day made Kamran Akmal a star. From nine not out he went on to score 109. He added 184 for the seventh wicket with Abdul Razzaq. He showed a lot of grit and application against a bowling squad that had Zaheer Khan, who went on to become the second most successful Indian fast bowler, and Anil Kumble, the highest wicket taker for India.
The partnership saved the match as Pakistan managed to set a target of 293 for the Indians which was unachievable in the time left. As was expected he was given the man of the match award.