Meltdown in Melbourne

Published: December 30, 2016

The joy of Azhar Ali’s splendid record-breaking double century turned out to be incredibly short-lived as Pakistan capitulated to another harrowing defeat in Australia on the last day of the Melbourne Test. The trend was similar to most of the 11 consecutive defeats that Pakistan have endured Down Under, since the 1999, 3-0 whitewash. After dominating some sessions and patches of the game, the tourists relinquished their grip so spectacularly that the game ended with a meltdown of momentous proportions.

Pakistan needed to bat out 70 overs after the Australian 624-run first innings that had seemingly sucked every ounce of energy from a team that, from the highs of Azhar’s double century, had crashed to the lows of conceding a 181-run lead. The task left for them was to bat out two sessions, batsmen with arguably more experience than any present international batting line-up crumbled so quickly and embarrassingly that some 15 overs were left unused as Australian juggernaut rolled them over with a touch of disdain.

The biggest let down was the loss of Younus Khan and Misbahul Haq in the space of three balls in one Nathan Lyon over. Misbah looked panicked and jittery in the two balls he faced, his agony was over almost as soon as it began, just a couple of hours later Pakistan’s most successful Test captain declared ‘I have to think if I should play the next Test’ at the post-match press conference. Like most of his peers and Pakistan greats, Misbah now seems destine for a sad end to an accomplished Test career.

Can Pakistan save their skin in Sydney’s final Test? Their performances in the last three dead rubbers in Australia inspire little confidence. After relinquishing the series the tourists crashed to defeats in the last Tests of the 1999, 2004-05 and 2009-10 tours without a whimper.

If Misbah indeed decides to bow out before Sydney, Pakistan will have a new captain to lead the team, there is no guarantee of a change of result, but there might be a change of approach and method.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2016.

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