They entered with only one spinner. Their rapids couldn’t put enough pressure. And part of the captaincy was questionable
Welcome to the subcontinent, Australia. The world has been waiting, and it seems little has changed since you last played anywhere other than Australia or England in 2018.
The playing strip was nothing like some of the fast, green monsters Australia had served and dominated throughout the Ashes at home. Yet they still went with their proven trio of Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc with Nathan Lyon as the lone spinner and Cameron Green as the all-rounder.
“I think we knew what was in store for us,” he said. “Maybe the wicket offered a little less bounce and a little less pace than we would have thought in Rawalpindi. But generally speaking we knew what we were going to get.”
We will talk a lot about the Australian selection. But this is part of a larger question about their method away from home. Australia didn’t play badly on the first day. The pitch was beautiful for batting and it was a bad shot to lose, something Australia didn’t experience during the Ashes. McDonald later acknowledged this.
“Obviously a tough day,” he said. “It was always going to be in terms of who won the coin toss is probably going to get (the game) on their terms for day one.
“Really impressed with the way we controlled the pace of the game. It was something we knew we had to do so the game didn’t slip away from us on day one. In terms of selection, it’s like no other. any other selection, I like to think that we can judge it over five days and not in isolation over one day.
Although Australia didn’t let Pakistan’s pace spiral out of control, they failed to pressure them through long spells of very slow scoring. They had the opportunity. Imam was 7 from 41 at one point and 11 from 44 when Cummins made the jaw-dropping decision to bring in Travis Head in the 17th. Not only did Head make 28 overs before Green, but he made 39 overs before Marnus Labuschagne, who averages 17 runs per wicket less in first-class cricket and whose legs could have offered a better contrast to the backlash of Lyons.
Imam hit four bounds in five overs, including three on Head, to advance his innings and Pakistan was out.
Green played just five overs on opening day, despite Imam and Azhar rushing through stages, while Boland ran the drinks, having made a living in Victoria bowling at the MCG and Junction Oval which are closest to this strip of Rawalpindi as any in Australia.
It is here that Australia could consider a change of method on the subcontinent. It’s hard to resist the lure of Starc’s reverse swing as a weapon, but he averages 54.84 and hits 99.99 in eight Tests across India, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates United. There was a hint of reverse swing late in the day, but not enough to bother Imam or Azhar.
Australia also made 192 complete deliveries today according to ball-by-ball data from ESPNCricinfo, as good-length deliveries accounted for 69 wickets in the 10 innings played at Rawalpindi since 2019.
McDonald was full of praise for the way Imam and Azhar hit and noted that his team needed to copy that batting plan when his turn came. But ultimately, Australia must find a method of taking wickets on the subcontinent if they are to add to Asia’s meager three Test victories over the past 15 years.
Alex Malcolm is associate editor at ESPNcricinfo