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Failure on the edge of glory: Pakistan's 10 most heart-breaking losses in Tests
Agonising Defeats

Failure on the edge of glory: Pakistan's 10 most heart-breaking losses in Tests

Pakistan narrowly lost the first Test of the ICC World Test Championship series at Old Trafford against England on Saturday by three wickets to concede a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

Pakistan dominated the match for the most part of the four days and were firmly in control of proceedings on the fourth day when England lost their fifth wicket at 117 in pursuit of the 277-run target.

England though made a remarkable comeback through a 139-run sixth-wicket partnership between Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes. The hosts eventually surpassed the target with three wickets remaining.

The narrow defeat brought back memories of some similar defeats Pakistan suffered in the longest format of the game.

Let's take a trip down the memory lane to list down 10 heart-breaking Tests.

1. Against Australia, SCG, 1973 – Lost by 52 runs

Eyeing their first ever Test win in Australia, Pakistan succumbed under fifth-day pressure despite dominating the match for four days. Mushtaq Mohammad’s 121 earned Pakistan a 26-run first-innings lead after which Saleem Altaf and Sarfaraz Nawaz took four wickets apiece to bowl out Australia for 184. Pakistan, in reply, were rolled out for 106 chasing 159 as Max Walker took six wickets in the innings. Dennis Lillee took three vital wickets, including one of Zaheer Abbas who scored 47. That wicket triggered a collapse as Pakistan went from 83 for three to 106 all out.

2. Against West Indies, Barbados, 1988 – Lost by two wickets

Arguably the most competitive series Pakistan played in and one of the best in Test cricket’s 143 years long history, Imran Khan-led Pakistan reduced West Indies to 207 for eight in chase of 266 in the third and final Test of the series. Pakistan had won the first Test by eight wickets and the second ended in an exciting draw, just when Pakistan thought they could be the first side in eight years to win a series against West Indies, a ninth-wicket partnership of 61 runs between Winston Benjamin and Jeff Dujon took West Indies home and squared the series 1-1. Wasim Akram’s seven wickets in the match, including four in the last innings, weren’t enough for Pakistan. West Indies did not lose a Test series for another seven years.

3. Against South Africa, Faisalabad, 1997 – Lost by 53 runs

What could have been Pakistan’s first Test and series win against South Africa, ended in disappointment for the home team as they went spiralled from 23 for no loss to 92 all out chasing a small target of 146 runs. South Africa’s comeback was architected by Shaun Pollock, who accounted for five wickets for 37 runs. It was the lowest target defended by any team against Pakistan at that time and also South Africa’s first ever series win on Pakistan soil.

4. Against Australia, Hobart, 1999 – Lost by four wickets

Scaling a target of 369 runs is one thing, but doing it against a formidable bowling unit comprising of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar and Saqlain Mushtaq is another. Australia did that on the back of a 238-run partnership between Justin Langer (127) and Adam Gilchrist (149 not out). That happened after Pakistan had reduced the home team to 126 for five and looked set to square the series with one game to go. Some umpiring decisions didn’t go Pakistan’s way and the game ended as a heavy disappointment for them and the fans. It still remains the highest chase against Pakistan by any team.

5. Against West Indies, Antigua, 2000 – Lost by one wicket

Twelve years after Barbados, Pakistan had another opportunity to win a Test series in the Caribbean but Jimmy Adams had different plans. He scored an unbeaten 48 runs and stitched a 19-run partnership for the last wicket with Courtney Walsh to win the game and the series for West Indies. West Indies managed to chase 216 despite Wasim Akram taking five wickets in the second innings and six in the first. Just like Hobart, Pakistan were left wondering what the result could have been if some umpiring decisions had gone their way. They also squandered a clear run-out opportunity with the last wicket pair of Adams and Walsh at the crease.

6. Against England, Karachi, 2000 – Lost by six wickets

For 45 years and 34 matches, Pakistan had remained undefeated at National Stadium Karachi. Their stronghold was finally breached when a spirited England team led by Nasser Hussain managed to chase 176 in near darkness. Pakistan lost control in the match when they were bowled out for 158 in the second innings giving England an opportunity to win a series in Pakistan after 39 years which, they duly grabbed. Pakistan started off well scoring 405 in the first innings courtesy Inzamam-ul-Haq’s 142 and also bowled out England for 388. However, a poor second-innings batting performance brought England back in the game.

 Nasser Hussain and Graham Thorpe celebrate the series win ©AllSport UK Ltd

Nasser Hussain and Graham Thorpe celebrate the series win ©AllSport UK Ltd

7. Against Australia, Sydney, 2010 – Lost by 36 runs

After dominating the game for three days, Pakistan let the game slip on the fourth day, which also happened to be the last when Mike Hussey (134 not out) and Peter Siddle (38) added 123 runs for the ninth wicket. The target of 176 was still chaseable but Pakistan's batting collapsed from 34 for no loss to 139 all out with Nathan Hauritz claiming five wickets. It was a forgettable outing for Pakistan especially knowing they had bowled out Australia for 127 in the first innings and scoring 333 in reply giving themselves a lead of 206 runs. Another painful aspect of the match was Mohammad Asif's six wickets – arguably one of the finest bowling spells by a Pakistan bowler away from home – going in vain.

8. Against Sri Lanka, Abu Dhabi, 2017 – Lost by 21 runs

Pakistan hit a new low when they were bowled out for 114 in a chase of 136, the lowest target they have failed to chase in Test cricket. The batting collapse was sparked by Rangana Herath who took 11 wickets in the match, including six in the last innings. It was the first time Pakistan lost a Test match in Abu Dhabi, a venue that had become Pakistan’s fortress since they relocated to UAE in 2010. The absence of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan, who retired in the previous series, was felt as Pakistan also lost the second Test and their first home series in 10 years.

9. Against New Zealand, Abu Dhabi, 2018 – Lost by four runs

It’s not every day you see teams losing by four runs in Test cricket. Only five times in the history have teams fallen short by four or fewer runs. Pakistan were at the receiving end of this unwanted record as New Zealand restricted them to 171, eying a target of 176. At one stage, when they were 130 for three the home side needed only 46 more with seven wickets in hand but a five-wicket haul by Ajaz Patel derailed Pakistan’s innings and designed a batting collapse which saw seven wickets fall for 41 runs. Hasan Ali and Yasir Shah, who had taken a five-for in the second innings, had to count their performances as vain efforts.

10. Against England, Manchester, 2020 – Lost by three wickets

Pakistan bowlers not defending targets is a rare sight in Test cricket. No team before this game had scaled 250-plus runs against Pakistan bowlers in this century so it needed a spectacular effort after they set England 277 to win. That effort came from Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes who counter-attacked with a 139-run stand in 33 overs after they were 117-5 and 160 adrift from the target. Although Pakistan lost the match, their young fast bowlers Shaheen Afridi and Naseem Shah can draw comfort from the fact that they put a competitive show and dominated England in most of the sessions.

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