Pakistan v Australia

Twenty Years of Hurt: Pakistan’s victory in the making

Cricket Froth’s more mature readers will remember the days when Australia toured Pakistan; a time before the 1992 ODI World Champions were forced to play their home series in an adopted country. Earlier this year Cricket Froth discussed Pakistan’s last Test series victory over Australia in the nostalgia of cricket in Pakistan. The crux of that article is recorded here:

“During the ’94 tour Pakistan won a nail biter by one wicket at Karachi with big performances from Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Saeed Anwar, Inzamam-ul-Haq and current England spin coach Mushtaq Ahmed.

In the following Test Saleem Malik scored a double tonne, which ensured a draw at Rawalpindi. Michael Slater, Damien Fleming, Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan excelled. During Pakistan’s epic 2nd innings every Australian player – except Ian Healy – had a bowl. Yes, even Mark Taylor and David Boon rolled the arm over. In fact, opening batsmen Taylor and Slater took wickets! The third Test at Lahore was also a draw. Pakistan won the series 1-0.

They had some good players. I imagine that tours there were extremely challenging, but equally rewarding. I think Australia’s last tour occurred in 1998, a 1-0 victory for Australia – Peshawar providing the scene for Mark Taylor’s 334 and a big series performance from Ijaz Ahmed and the introduction of youngster Shoaib Akhtar.

In a nostalgic and perhaps rose-tinted sense tours to Pakistan and the West Indies seemed to be the epitome of tough international Test Match cricket. It’s a massive loss that international cricket isn’t played in Pakistan and West Indies struggle from poor governance and administration, un-helped by the ICC and India’s selfish scheduling of T20 tournaments.

In Pakistan the instability and threat of violence means that cricket seems an impossible and a luxurious frivolity in comparison to the issues facing their people. I hope that cricket can return to Pakistan in the near future, because that will mean things have substantially improved.”

If Pakistan nullify Australia in Abu Dhabi they’ll score their first victory in 9 series played across 20 years against Australia. It would be momentous. But Michael Clarke’s men will resolve to prevent it. I expect a more dedicated performance from Australia’s batsmen. The toss will be critical, but not solely determinant.

Australia will need to attack at key moments and prevent Pakistan from reaching a defensible position. The hosts will take a draw. Australia’s spinners – I’m looking at you Nathan Lyon – must penetrate.

I have been a big supporter of Lyon, but his return in the 1st Test was a damning moment in his 36 Test career. Pakistan had scored 454 runs before Lyon took a wicket in the first innings. He finished with 2/148, which was 0/144 until Pakistan’s wicket keeper, Sarfraz, hit out on 109 and a tailender skied one to Rogers at point. He returned 0/72 from 18 overs in Pakistan’s declared second innings.

Pakistan’s spinners looked a million dollars. On debut Yasir Shah took 7/116 and Zulfiqar Babar, playing his 3rd Test, took 7/155 in the match. Shah looks the business, but leg spin is a tough art.

Abu Dhabi may not offer as much spin and there is a rumour Australia may drop Lyon or O’Keefe for a quicker option. “That demonstrates Australia’s confidence in their spinners [on spinning decks]” said a colleague. Mitchell Starc could become the third Mitchell in Australia’s XI (bizarre). Glenn Maxwell could be a late bolter (good player of spin) if Alex Doolan is cut. I’m not convinced of Maxwell’s ability as a top 6 Test batsmen, but Doolan needs runs to repel the criticism that he isn’t one either.

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Australia’s collapsible batting leaves Pakistan in command

Recent Test Series victories against England and South Africa has papered over one of Australia’s flaws: batting. Today – as Pakistan dominate Australia in the UAE – I present to you why nobody should be surprised at Australia’s collapsible batting.

As the memory fades, the narrative of the Australian summer is increasingly about the fallout of Mitchell Johnson’s incredible assault on England.

England’s coach, several players and administrators are now casualties of that series and more is surfacing in Kevin Pietersen’s controversial book. Australia went on to defeat South Africa 2-1 away with another brilliant and disturbingly (for batsmen) hostile performance by Mitchell Johnson.

But Australia’s batting has been – in part – carried by its bowling and – at times – top-class fielding. Sure, there were some great hundreds scored by Australia in that home series against England (mostly when turning the screws as opposed to backs against the wall when hundreds really matter) and away against South Africa.

None were better than Michael Clarke’s 161 against South Africa at Newlands. The series locked at 1-1, Clarke withstood antagonism from the field and a seriously fired up Morne Morkel who, hurtling in at 150kmph, struck Clarke on the arm, the shoulder and helmet, drawing blood and preventing the Australian captain from scoring a run for nearly six overs. It would have taken the wicket of many world class batsmen and killed most readers. But are those moments rarer than collapses?

I think so. Who remembers Durham 2013? Australia were cruising at 0/109 in their chase of 299 and were bundled out by Stuart Broad for 224, losing their last seven wickets for 58.

Fast forward to the Ashes in Australia. How many times did Brad Haddin rescue the top order?

Batting at 7, he was the second-highest run scorer in the series, with 493 at an average of 61, with five 50s and one ton.

Haddin came in to bat at:

  • 5/100 in Brisbane (scoring 94)
  • 5/247 in Adelaide (scoring 118 taking Australia to a match winning first innings score of 570)
  • 5/143 in Perth (scoring 55)
  • 5/112 in Melbourne (scoring 65)
  • 5/97 and 5/200 in Sydney (scoring 75 and 18).

Australia improved marginally in South Africa, but in the Port Elizabeth defeat they were skittled for 246 and after being 0/126 in their second dig, were rolled for 216.

Overnight Australia went from 0/128 to 303 all out. Haddin could not save them. Warner’s 133 is 44% of the team’s runs. Hats off to Pakistan. They’ve overcome the loss of Saeed Ajmal and proved that they’re a tough opponent. The next two days will be a massive challenge for Australia’s batsmen as they seek to resist a likely Pakistan victory late today and tomorrow.