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A 12 year drought has finally been bought to a close. Pakistan was able to finish off a successful run chase headed by the stand in captain, Hafeez. Despite of a slowish wicket, the top order built around Hafeez and was able to always be ahead of the run rate.
The two veteran batsmen in Shoaib Malik and Hafeez were able to shepherd the chase successfully. It was a very uncharacteristic Pakistani victory. It was clincal as Pakistan batted for time and put away the bad ball when it came and kept their wickets in hand till the end, ensuring that there would be no hiccups or collapses. Hafeez was dropped by Smith in the first over of the day and then stuck around to ensure that Australia would rue that chance.
With a total this low, Pakistan never needed to take much chances but just play for time and this they were able to do without much problems. Australia strived to take wickets but were not successful. A couple of half chances went down and the usual commitment from Australia in the field ensured that Pakistan had to bat for a bit longer than they normally would have been required to.
It was also apparent that Smith doesn’t have much bowling options except for Starc, Hazelwood and Cummins and Pakistan ensured that they didn’t lose wickets to two of them. Faulkner was tight in the middle overs but lacked support.
Sharjeel got Pakistan off to a quick start, but one does wish that he comes to term with bounce and change of pace and produces a big innings for Pakistan one day. Babar Azam batted within himself and showed glimpses of his class as such.
Shoaib Malik was really crucial in the second hand of the chase and he batted with a lot of assurance on a slow wicket against all of the Australian quicks, the highlight being a lofted on drive off Hazelwood that went for six. The only batsman that looked out of sorts was Asad Shafiq. He wasn’t able to hit boundaries or rotate the strike. He gave his wicket away to Starc in his last over. But Umar Akmal was able to come in and finish the chase off with a flurry of boundaries.
Pakistan have comprehensively outplayed Australia today, it started with Junaid Khan’s incisive spell and then the squeeze was applied by the Pakistani spinners throughout the innings, before Amir returned to clean up. After that, Pakistan kept wickets in hand and took advantage of the lack of a fourth bowler for Australia. When Australia has to strive to take wickets, the policy of playing on dead wickets can’t really be helpful. Having part time spin options doesn’t help either as good batsmen can always seem to milk them for runs easily. Against teams with stronger batting lineups, this lack of bowling options will be exposed even more so.
There is one more issue, the slow over rate by Australia, might result in some kind of punishment by the ICC. Normally, most captains are penalised, but lets see if Smith gets the same treatment or not.
– First innings – Pakistan bowling
No matter how much you try and hide a weakness, cricket will find a way to expose it. Everyone was initially talking about how vulnerable Australia’s batting is against quality spin, and finally Pakistan’s bowling attack has enough quality spin options to ensure that they will test out the Australian batsmen.
In spite of the pitch once again being a flat deck, the slowness of the wicket ensured that the Pakistani trio of spinners posed a lot of questions. Imad Wasim was once again excellent as always. He has been the control spinner for Pakistan, able to offer ten overs of tight, hard to hit away spin as well as threatening to take wickets as well.
But a special mention goes to the recalled Junaid Khan who bowled with considerable skill and commendable effort. He didn’t look as quick as we have seen him before but there was no shortage of skill in terms of the seam movement that he bought. And once again, bring in movement and the Australian batsmen seem to have very few answers, going hard at the ball and trying to push at it and failing to really do much.
Steven Smith once again showed his class but was clearly not finding the going as easy as it was in the Test matches, Imad, Hafeez and Shoaib all bowled with good control and kept the Aussie batsmen on a leash throughout. Amir also bowled with good pace and chipped in with wickets at the end of the innings.
The choice of Hafeez being able to bowl once again and having Hassan Ali present gave Pakistan a lot of options to use. The value of all rounders was plain to see. Pakistan has really missed Hafeez as a bowler on the international stage, the headaches he caused for left handed batsmen as a spinner are well enough known to all who have followed him.
The Pakistani bowling attack does look a lot more settled and well suited against the Australians. With Junaid and Amir back, two bowlers who rely on movement as well as pace, Pakistan will always pose questions with the new ball. And with its trio of spinners headed by Imad Wasim backed up by Hasan Ali offer wicket taking options as well as great control in the middle overs. Even without the presence on Wahab Riaz, it looks a well balanced and settled attack, well suited for the opposition at hand.
Now it remains to be seen if Pakistan can pull off a successful run chase against a good pace attack but the pitch has no demons and if Pakistan can cope with the slow nature, this should be very similar to them playing at home.
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