Australia win Test series

Sport Desk

KARACHI: Who knew that the Pakistan-Australia Test series, which started on March 4, will be decided on the last day, March 25, of the last Test and in the very last session?
People who believe that Test cricket is a dying format and short-form, quick action cricket is the future had to bite their tongue during the three-Test series between Pakistan and Australia.
The first Test in Rawalpindi may have been a bummer, with a ‘dead pitch’ ruining the start of a historic tour by Australia. However, expecting Pakistan to just lay down a green turf for the Australian bowling attack to exploit against the home team wouldn’t have been right too.
But when the action reached Karachi’s National Stadium for the second Test, the balance between bat and ball was achieved. The match may have ended in a draw, but Pakistan’s nearly two-day long fight to not give up against Australia was the sweetest cherry on the top. Babar’s brilliant 196 and later Rizwan’s ton in testing circumstances towards the end of the match made Pakistan believe that the momentum is shifting towards the hosts to bag a win in the third Test.
However, Australia won the toss and piled up a first innings total of 391 to push Pakistan on the back foot from the word go.

Babar and co tried their best to come as close as they can to Australia’s 391, but the hosts were sent packing for 268.

Then Australia came out to bat and added to their lead, courtesy opener and player of the series Usman Khawaja’s century, and with a 352-run target on the board, asked Pakistan to walk in at the end of day four to bat.

Pakistani openers scored 73 runs comfortably till stumps on day four and gave a clear signal that they were going to go for the kill on day five in order to bag the series. Australia too were gunning for a win as the match entered day five, with only 278 runs remaining to take the 10 wickets.

Australian captain Pat Cummins, before day five started, may have wondered if he declared too early with a small, achievable target. Pakistan must have been licking their lips too at the prospect of scoring the remaining runs and lifting the Qadir-Benaud Trophy. None of them was thinking about the draw, which means someone’s heart was going to break on Friday.

Pundits and experts will agree to the fact that a day five pitch is never in favour of the batting side, especially when they are chasing and not just playing the day away.

Pakistan’s intent to chase the target was right, but their execution needed adjustment, the very first lesson that they must have learned after the series loss. The fine balance between offence and defense while chasing a target on a day five or even a day four pitch is a skill that separates a great Test team from a regular one.

No one is saying that Pakistan cannot be a great team because they lost the third Test, but they need to take this defeat to heart and prepare for a better reply next time they are asked to bat and win in the fourth innings. And with the return of cricket in Pakistan, the Men in Green will have to learn to bat better on their own pitches to make full use of the home advantage.

Meanwhile, in the bowling department, Pakistan were only able to dismiss the complete Australian team only twice in the six innings. One when Australia scored 459 in the Rawalpindi Test and second when they scored 391 in the third Test in the first innings. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s all 10 batsmen were sent back to the pavilion by Australia on three occasions. Once in the second Test and twice in the third Test.

This goes on to show that our bowling failed to produce the flare, in home conditions, which was expected and hence our strength, our spin and pace battery, never actually showed up.

Australian players will be happy to take a Test series victory back to their country, with words of appreciation for the Pakistani crowd and also the management which kept them safe and entertained. However, Pakistani players have received a reality check that playing at home doesn’t necessarily equate to comfortable wins. With a world class opposition against you, putting up a fight is compulsory, wherever you’re playing them.

The Test series loss against Australia is not the end of the world for Pakistan surely, so Babar and co will have to learn their lessons from the series loss so they are not struck down again and again, at home, when other big teams come to play Tests in Pakistan.