Unraveling the Australia-Pakistan rivalry: A journey back to 1979

Two-Test series have become commonplace, much to the dismay of traditionalists who say they are short and inconsequential. On the eve of another visit to Australia by Pakistan, looking back at a series between these teams 45 years ago that will always be remembered may be interesting. Though only consisting of two Tests, completed in a 19-day span, it went down in history as one of the most consequential, controversial, and possibly infamous.

In the late March of 1979, after a long six-match Ashes series, a series between Australia and Pakistan took place. Wholly aware of the World Series Cricket’s establishment as the main event with the best players competing, Pakistan still started as firm favorites, being allowed to play all of its ‘Packer players’ against a weakened Australian team.

The first Test, with Australia needing 382 to win, saw Sarfraz Nawaz taking 7 wickets for 1 run, leading Pakistan to a famous win by 71 runs. Little did anyone know then, but this was the first real demonstration of reverse swing bowling – a game-changer for cricket.

The Australian captain, Graeme Yallop’s injury before the second Test had long-term consequences for the team. Australia, needing 236 to win the game, faced tough competition and drama, with unique incidents like Andrew Hilditch being given out for handling the ball at the non-striker’s end after picking it up to return it to the bowler Sarfraz.

In the end, the series ended as a draw. However, the significance of the series was felt in both the immediate and the long term. It played a part in the compromise between the Australian Cricket Board and World Series Cricket, leading to changes in the team for the next summer. On the other hand, it marked the beginning of a transition for the Pakistani team.

The series has introduced the cricketing world to many phenomena, and the conversation continues to this day, just as five decades ago, underlining the significance and impact made by a two-Test series that concluded in a draw.