They have a talented bowling line-up, they said, full of potential, brimming with promise and pace. They can spring a surprise against the hosts, they said, something some of the greatest bowlers from their country weren’t able to do Down Under. They can beat Australia in Australia, they said.
Not today, said Australia.
Pakistan, after managing to put on board 240 after the first day of the first Test all thanks to a courageous 76-run stand by Asad Shafiq, were clueless on day two when the hosts came in to bat.
The chatter before the series was all about what Pakistan will do to dismiss David Warner and Steve Smith, two of Australia’s best batsmen. Surely then, every Pakistan plan for the first Test would have had a phase where the discussion would have shifted towards where to bowl to them and how to get them out. But nothing worked, or maybe the plans were not effective enough.
Pakistani pace battery composed of a young duo of Shaheen Shah Afridi and the extremely fast, but probably a little too over-hyped Naseem Shah, together with veteran Imran Khan turned out to be a flop when the Aussies started their innings, and they haven’t even faced Smith yet.
Naseem, the special one, came close to pulling off a spectacular as Warner edged him to the keeper, but call it fate or indiscipline, it was called a no-ball by the third umpire.
The case is being made that Pakistan were turned away when Rizwan was dismissed by Pat Cummins on day one, with broad daylight between the back of his shoe and the bowling crease, but Naseem’s overstepping was more legit than him.
Yasir Shah did what he does best. He bamboozled Joe Burns around his legs, but not before the damage was already done by the two openers. A 222-run opening stand had already served as a killer blow to the Pakistani hopes of pulling a rabbit out of the hat in this Test at least.
The legend says that Pakistan is a factory where pacers are produced in bulk, but no one talks about the quality and maturity that these pacers have. Throwing a 16-year-old into the mix may well have been an exceptional move, but the risk was always there that the youngster may wither under pressure or may not be able to deliver because of the lack of experience.
Misbahul Haq (the batting coach, the head coach and the chief selector) would not have been surprised when Naseem Shah failed to do what he was brought in to do with his vicious pace, because for him it was never the case of winning in Australia. Misbah’s ridiculous experimentation and ambiguous decisions show that he lacks the mantle for the job (actually jobs).
Also, he has nothing to show as a positive since as the head coach and the batting coach, his team underperformed in the first innings with the bat; failure number one. And as the chief selector, he failed yet again when Muhammad Abbas, who has a crazy Test bowling record, was asked to sit out of the first Test.
Meanwhile, Misbah’s bowling coach Waqar Younis, one of the best of his time, wasn’t able to guide his pacers that they should have bowled a probing line to dismiss Australian batsmen, because if we know one thing about them it is that they don’t gift wickets like Pakistan did in the first innings.
All in all, day two broke Pakistan’s little bubble that they can just go into Australia with a bunch of teenagers and walk out victorious. Winning in Australia demands practice and planning, a quality Pakistan are as good at as their batting.