Ian Healy, arguably one of game’s greatest wicketkeepers, missed a tough take off Shane Warne during the closing moments of the thrilling Karachi Test of 1994 – it cost Australia a golden opportunity to win a rare series in Pakistan.
The 1994 tour of Pakistan signalled the start of a new era for Australian cricket. The recently retired Allan Border had reinvigorated an ailing team and now it was over to Mark Taylor to show he was the right man to establish Australia as the world’s No.1 Test side. Taylor’s opening mission: a first Test win in Pakistan for 35 years.
Ian Healy was another with a point to prove, having made an inauspicious Test debut at Karachi in an innings defeat six years previously. Since then he had established himself as the finest wicketkeeper in the world, his connection with Shane Warne bordering on telepathic.
Taylor’s tenure got off to the worst possible start in the first Test at Karachi as he fell to Wasim Akram for a duck, but Australia secured a first-innings lead of 81 thanks to a breezy half-century from debutant Michael Bevan and three wickets apiece for Warne and Joe Angel. The match was there for the taking with Australia 171-2 in the second dig – Taylor falling for another duck to become the first player to register a pair in his first Test as captain – before Wasim and Waqar combined to blow away the last eight wickets for 61 runs, David Boon unbeaten on 114.
Pakistan needed 314 to win with five sessions to get them. They finished day four on 155-3 with the match delicately poised before events took a sinister turn. Warne and Mark Waugh would later testify that they received a call that evening from Saleem Malik, Pakistan’s captain, offering them cash to underperform. Six years later Malik would become the first player to be banned from all cricket for match-fixing in an unrelated incident.
The offer was rejected out of hand and a depleted Australian attack, shorn of Glenn McGrath and Tim May, set about finishing the job. The win looked a formality with one wicket remaining and 57 runs still needed but Inzamam-ul-Haq chipped away at the target and Mushtaq Ahmed offered spirited resistance to swing the match back in Pakistan’s favour.
Happy birthday to one of @cricketcomau greatest wicketkeepers @Iheals. Here’s what Mike Coward wrote when he was a @WisdenAlmanack Cricketer of the Year in 1994 – https://t.co/w6STeB570X #wisdencricketeroftheyear
— Wisden Almanack (@WisdenAlmanack) April 30, 2020
Pakistan needed just three for the win when Healy was presented with a golden opportunity to take the match. “Warnie bowled a beauty and Inzamam … went to work it through the leg-side, his feet came together, and the ball spun through him, between bat and pad,” Healy recounted in his autobiography.
“I thought it was going to bowl him and got a bit stiff with my gloves and body … The height wasn’t a problem, but my glove didn’t move to the ball, so when it missed the off-stump it buzzed low between my legs and down to the boundary. Four byes! While my teammates choked on appeals and held their heads, in total despair I kicked over the stumps.”
It would prove to be the decisive moment in the series as Pakistan held out for a 1-0 win, one of only three rubber defeats in Taylor’s five years as skipper.
First published in October 2014.