Learned, Liked & Disliked: Second Test – Pakistan v Australia

After a dominant first session, it was all down hill for the Australians in the Second Test completed on Friday. The sense of doom and gloom post defeat was not helped at all by news that First Test centurion Usman Khawaja requires knee surgery and may miss the home summer series against India.

After forcing a draw in the First Test with a staunch batting effort on the last day, the Australian batting line up was embarrassed twice by a rampant Pakistani bowling attack led by Mohammad Abbas. A drop to fifth in the ICC Test rankings has followed, along with a number of concerns for the selectors in relation to the dysfunctional middle order.


Knee Jerk Reaction

  1. Get your bloody bat down. Labushame Marnus. Labushame.
  2. Nathan Lyon is underrated.
  3. When does Shaun Marsh’s free pass expire?
  4. Is this what DRS was created for?
  5. Is this the best batting line up Australia can field?

LEARNED

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Learned: Even professionals make elementary mistakes.

Watching the ball at all times is one of the very first things that young cricketers are taught when taking up the game, and it was this very instruction that Azhar Ali and Asad Safiq forgot in comical fashion on Day Three. After edging a Peter Siddle delivery through the vacant third man area, Ali met with Safiq mid-pitch having clearly assumed the ball had run away to the boundary.

Yet, as the two batsman went about gardening the pitch, Mitchell Starc continued to pursue the ball and catching up with it as it came to a stop a metre from the rope. Even the urgent return from Starc failed to tip Ali and Safiq to the danger and they were still out of their ground when Tim Paine gleefully broke the stumps.

For Marnus Labuschagne the manner of the dismissal would have provided some relief after his own brain fade a day earlier. At the non-strikers end the 24-year-old South African come Queenslander watched a Mitchell Starc drive deflect off Yassir Shah and on to his stumps all the while having his bat behind the crease line but ungrounded. Until Ali’s run out a day later, it was arguably the most embarrassing run out in Test Cricket history.


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Learned: Mohammad Abbas can bowl.

When Dale Steyn considers a player the best bowler in the world, it is fair to say that person is a heck of a bowler. Australia learned first hand just how good Mohammad Abbas was with the 28-year-old taking 17-wickets in two Tests at the remarkable average of 10.58.

Abbas is so accurate with the ball, and obviously our preparation was more spin-orientated so we’ve been taken by surprise by the pacer.

Australian Bowling Coach David Saker – ESPNCricinfo

With Abbas the owner of the best average for a bowler with 50+ Test wickets in over a century, it is unlikely that future opponents will be as surprised as the Australians. Yet, like opponents found with Glenn McGrath in the past, forewarned isn’t always forearmed.


LIKED

1Liked: Nathan Lyon’s first morning rampage.

After losing the early wicket of Mohammad Hafeez, Pakistan seemed to have steadied well having moved along to 1-57 in sight of Lunch. All of this was turned on its head by Nathan Lyon in the space of six deliveries across two overs.

In removing Azar Ali and First Test centurion Harris Sohail with the last two balls of the 19th over, Lyon found himself on a hat-trick when he began over 21. While he missed his chance to become Australia’s 10th Hat-Trick taker in Test Cricket, he would console himself by removing Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam before the over was out to round out an extraordinary 4-0 in six balls.


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Liked: Promising signs continue from First Test Debutants.

There isn’t a lot for Australia to take solace from out of this Series but First Test Debutants Aaron Finch, Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne all showed signs that they could find their feet at this level. Finch managed two starts opening the innings, and Head a second innings start, which should be enough for them to retain their spots come the home summer.

Labuschagne will play a long time before he lives down the embarrassment of his first-innings dismissal but he offered the side something with bat and ball. He wasn’t able to turn his starts into a big score but took five wickets with the ball. Usman Khawaja’s injury will likely offer him the chance to keep his spot come the Indian series but he will need runs to continue further with it unlikely that he can have the same success with the ball in Australian conditions.


DISLIKED

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Disliked: Australia’s Frivolous DRS Use

We are on the record with our belief that the DRS is incorrectly weighted towards the umpires original verdict (read here) but this doesn’t excuse Australia’s diabolical use of it during this Test. Six times in the field Australia challenged the Umpires decision and only once were they successful in their attempts to have the decision overturned. While there is a time and place for a strategic challenge, this level of waste by Tim Paine could come back and bite Australia in the future if it continues.


 

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Disliked: Australia collapse again and again.

Despite boasting a number eleven bat with a first class fifty to his name, Australia’s batting line up failed to fire at all in the Second Test. It spells concern for the team ahead of hosting the World Number One Test team this summer.

While all three of the debutants in the series showed enough promise to warrant persistence with them, the form of the team’s most experienced player has been nothing short of diabolical. Shaun Marsh has been afforded almost unprecedented support and opportunity to nail down a position in the side but continues to flatter to deceive.

As he showed during the Ashes Series, he is one of the most elegant players to watch when in form but his best is still too infrequent. Almost 20 years after his first class debut he is still almost twice as likely to be dismissed for a score less than 10 than one over 50 at Test Match level. The longer they persist with him, the more hollow their claims of elevating the level of expectation of what it takes to wear the baggy green cap.


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