Cricket 2019/20: First Test Review – Australia v Pakistan

Adrian Meredith gives us his verdict on the First Test between Australia and Pakistan.

Few thought that Pakistan would fight too much. The greatest hope, perhaps, was that Mohammad Abbas, who terrorised Australia in the United Arab Emirates the last time the two teams met, would be just as effective in Australia. Or perhaps even Yasir Shah, who has such a great record against Steve Smith, would blunt Australia’s aggression. On the batting front, the major hope was Babar Azam, who is yet to perform as well at test level as in the shorter formats. But there weren’t a lot of hopes. It wasn’t expected to be close.

So when we look at an innings victory, it looks like it was predictable, and perhaps it was. India beat Bangladesh by an innings on the same day, for their fourth innings victory in a row, a world record. New Zealand beat England by an innings the next day.

For some bizarre reason, best known to the Pakistan selectors, Mohammad Abbas didn’t play, and Australia’s batsmen were left fighting against some ineffective bowlers. So ineffective that they allowed Australia to get 222 runs before they lost their first wicket. While it was nice that 16-year-old Naseen Shah got his test debut, on the evidence of his return, it was a little premature.

Imran Khan, the new one at least, is probably not quite test level, while Iftikhar Ahmed was oddly selected based on his form in the practice match, in which he scored 79 not out and took 2 wickets. Neither of them should have been anywhere near replacing Mohammad Abbas.

Yasir Shah belonged, and his 4/205 was the best bowling in the team. He also clean-bowled Steve Smith for 4, and has now taken his wicket the second-most of anyone. Smith is, perhaps, his “bunny” even.

But the stark reality is that Pakistan couldn’t capitalise on a solid 75-run opening partnership, which took them to lunch on the first day unbeaten, only for them to collapse to 5/94. In spite of a recovery to 6/227, they were then all out for just 240, an amount that was nowhere near enough.

Be sure to check out the story of Adam Gilchrist’s debut against the same opponent at the same venue, 20 years ealier.

Australia’s best bowlers, Cummins, Hazlewood, Starc and Lyon, were reunited for this test, after Australia experimented with Siddle and Pattinson in England, for average returns, but this was a long way from average, as they combined brilliantly and destroyed every hope that Pakistan had.

David Warner’s return to test form was welcomed, showing that he is an all-formats player after all, something that has been true for most of his career, save that little blip in England. While the match situation was easy, what with Joe Burns backing him up at the other end, he still had to score the 154 runs, and it was a triumphant 154 to boot.

The top 3 all scored well, with Joe Burns falling agonisingly short of a test century with an admirable 97 before unluckily chopping it on to his stumps, while Marnus Labuschagne managed 185, all the more remarkable as it was his first test century, something we forget as he has been so tremendous in every test he has played, especially in England, and he now has a test average of 46.75 to match his form.

Smith had a rare failure and there weren’t too many other big contributors, other than Matthew Wade’s 60, but not much more was needed, as the top 3 added 436 runs, out of a total of 580, enough for an innings victory.

Lyon was ineffective and we probably could have gone with 4 pacers for the test, but the variety allowed by Lyon is perhaps worth more than the 2 wickets he took for the match.

Australia gained 60 points in the “World Test Championship” from this and are up to 2nd spot suddenly, in line to face India in 2020 for the test championship final, which just highlights how silly it is, given that Australia’s 2-2 draw in the Ashes in England, worth just 56 points, was far more impressive than this walk in the park, which was worth a whopping 60.

Babar Azam did score his first test century, of 104, while Mohammad Rizwan almost added his own with 95, and even Yasir Shah added 42, while Asad Shafiq’s first innings 76 was also impressive, but it all faded into insignificance, given Australia’s mammoth score and dominance in the match.

There is a second test in this 2-test “series” in Adelaide, but that doesn’t look like being much different to this one, and could easily be another innings victory for Australia, even if Pakistan do play Mohammad Abbas.

At least we’re winning and our hard work in the Ashes is finally showing some dividends on the World Test Championship.

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