Pakistan is known to throw a few surprises, too often than not. It has become its propriety act. The team itself is not averse to admitting it, and a lot of Pakistanness is attributed to it. Which Pakistan is going to turn up, one never knows but can only learn.
So, this fact alone, makes it always exciting to follow Pakistan, especially for a neutral.
Even amidst all the uncertainties that any Pakistan team carries with it, one thing was always for certain – that a Pakistan bowling attack will stand for itself. The bowlers, however little they were aided by their batsmen or fielders, would find ways to trouble the opposition batting line up. There would, definitely, be spells of awe which would always leave one with envious admiration.
Come this tour, another Pakistani surprise, but very unlike Pakistan of before.
Pakistan bowlers were mere passengers for most part of the tour. They came; marked their attendance and were barely seen then. The pacers and Yasir Shah combined, asked very few questions and hardly gave the Aussie batsmen anything to ponder about. They were milked, not in patches, but for as long as one could remember seeing them bowl down under.
In the 1st test at Brisbane, Australia scored 429 runs at a rate of 3.29, which is a pretty decent run rate in test cricket. In the very innings that followed, the Pakistani bowling attack was taken to tatters.
The second innings at Brisbane cost 202 runs at 5.17, in the only innings at MCG Australia amassed a mammoth 624 at a staggering run rate of 4.39, almost the same followed at Sydney where 538 runs came at 3.98 runs per over and to top it all the second innings at Sydney saw the Aussies notch up 241 runs at a run rate of 7.53. Needless to say, Pakistan could bowl out the Aussies only once in the whole series!
It is not only about the runs but the manner in which they were conceded. Yasir Shah in particular was very disappointing. He started with a very defensive middle – leg stump line to the left handers in the very first session of the test series and never recovered from there. The Aussie batting had six to seven left handers in its line-up with the top 3 being all Southpaws. Surely Misbah should have had a better plan for his premier bowler.
Though in consecutive tests at MCG and SCG, the Pakistani batsmen capitulated under pressure in the last innings to concede defeat, it is the batting, surprisingly, that can be termed as a positive to come out of the tour. Though Misbah and Sami Aslam failed to impress, others did a fair job.
Azhar Ali for one, in his first tour down under, proved to be a thorn in the Aussie flesh throughout. He scored 406 runs at an average of 81.20 in his six innings, which included a run out. He made his form count and made the opposition pay for his wicket. If anything, Pakistan should be relieved by the solidarity he provides at the top.
Asad Shafiq, one of the worlds most underrated batsmen moving around, sizzled in patches and once again proved that he is one of the bright prospects for Pakistan. His 137 at Gabba was a reminder of his capabilities at No.6, and in times to come his value to this batting line up will only proliferate.
Though Younis came to the party when it was all over, his unbeaten 175 at SCG was essential considering the possibility of Misbah retiring post this series. Younis’s experience and confidence will count even more, if Misbah decides to step down. And for him to have some runs behind his back after a few failures in New Zealand and in the first couple of tests of this series, was important.
Sarfraz Ahmed’s form with the gloves and the bat have been very indifferent. At No.7 he did justice to his slot and came up with some enterprising knocks as usual but his glove work needs to improve by a fair amount. His missed chances are costing the side dear.
Before the series started, this Australian side, was seen as probably the weakest, a Pakistani team would get to play or got to play. Pakistan itself was not long ago the number 1 ranked side. But as it turned out, Pakistan let go the chance begging. From 9 test matches, with little resistance, it has now become 12 test matches – that Pakistan in a row has lost down under.
Misbah has done a lot of good to this side, and has been the side’s father figure for quite some time now. This is a side that he has built. He has done in his best to bring some order and unity in the camp. But this series in particular has gone awfully wrong for him and his side. He looked jaded and short of ideas. Sad that such a wonderful journey, perhaps now, has come to a non-fairy tale end.