Another day, another Smith century. The no one rated batsman in the world continues his dominance in the Test arena. But it was by no means a runaway hundred, he was made to work hard for it and use his powers of concentration. But he has those in abundance along with immense skills of batting.
Pakistan’s bowlers toiled away without much success. Particularly mohammad Amir who bowled without any luck whatsoever, he went past the bat numerous times in every spell that he came back upon. Another day he would have taken 5 or 6 wickets. But he stuck manfully to his task. Wahab Riaz bowled with great heart and pace but over stepped and looked at the end of his tether at times. Seemed to be looking for wickets by just banging it in short, it wasn’t the approach of a thinking fast bowler, but then he is more the “pace is pace yaar” type of bowler. Sohail Khan bowled well overall, but at times versus a set Smith seemed to have no answers. He pulled back well, taking a couple of wickets and coming back to bowl tightly to give Pakistan a bit more control.
Yasir Shah for me was the disappointment of the lot. I do understand that he is a leg spinner and control is hard but there was no semblance of threat or anything about his bowling that looked to be threatening the batsmen until they came after him. There was no real deception to his bowling, the dreaded googlies weren’t there. I didn’t necessarily agree with the fields that were set for him when he was bowling to left handers, there was a gaping hole that any half decent batsman could push/tab into the offside with a single. And Warner and Khawaja did this all day yesterday. He bowled better to the right handers but didn’t really seem like he could offer any control to his captain. I didn’t understand why he didn’t have better fields to left handers or talk to his Captain for a better field. Bowlers generally should have an idea of what they want to bowl to a particular batsman and where they want to have fielders. But there were just too many easy singles for batsmen to get off strike.
Misbah must have been missing his previous world class spinners, i.e. Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman who could tie up batsmen, get through the overs and keep the runs down. And knew their own games inside out. But Australia is always a testing ground for overseas spinners to come and do well on. And the Melbourne road…erm pitch that did a fair impression of the Hume Highway ensured that batsmen could stick back on their backfoot and just read him off the pitch and Peter Handscomb took to him in a big way. Those impressive hits were covering up a big weakness. It is one thing to score runs on your home ground on a batting wicket and quite another to do the same overseas on a tad more responsive wickets. (Psstt….don’t mention India’s tour coming up!) But literally, the same thing that got Australian batsmen into such a muddle against a half strength Sri Lanka team, is right now working so well. But we shall see, in February, what comes to pass.
The batting has been good from Australia, as expected, and the flat pitch has certainly helped but Pakistan has already shown that they have the application necessary to blunt Australia’s attack just as effectively and run them into the ground.
The Australian strategy for opposing teams has been to have flat pitches for their batsmen to pile up the runs and then to have bowlers that can bowl 140 kmph to then bowl out the opposition by blasting them out. It didn’t seem like the case in the first three days of Pakistan batting, when Starc looked like he wanted to be elsewhere. With only the excellent Bird and Hazelwood, offering Smith any control.
Overall, the high scoring rate set by Warner and Khawaja and the lack of control in the Pakistani attack means that there is an outside chance of a result. If Australia can put up a quick 150, and then Pakistan implodes, there might be a result.
But in reality, it might take too long to get a lead, Australia might declare overnight and ask Pakistan to bat and then after a couple of fruitless sessions, call it a day. And this is all speculation, considering that the Melbourne weather is very likely to have a big say as well.