Pak vs. Aus 1st test


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.

Pat Cummins’ team got screwed and they shouldn’t really be surprised. The lack of tour matches, grass on the training grounds which did not turn, rain the day before the opening test and limited data suggesting fast bowlers would enjoy the cricket stadium more of Rawalpindi than the spinners, all caused doubt about the selection in the lead. -in.

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.

Lyon, who weren’t required to play in Australia’s final Test match, were in the eighth of the day and the image of England’s batting line-up folding like a cheap suit was a distant memory as the ‘Imam-ul-Haq was making a brilliant first century test and shared century stand with Azhar Ali and Abdullah Shafique as only one wicket fell all day.
Coach Andrew McDonald said there were no surprises from Australia’s perspective.

“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.”

Armchair selectors will, in hindsight, lament not selecting a second spinner in Mitchell Swepson or Ashton Agar, after Lyon extracted the spin with the new ball on fresh ground. But Lyon threw 31 overs for a wicket and the rotation dwindled as the pitch dried up.
Australia picked their second-best spinner in Jon Holland to partner Lyon on their final tour against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates in 2018. And the opening day of that series went to much the same scenario that this one. Today’s century-opening stand in Rawalpindi was the first time a team has done so against Australia since that day in Dubai. Imam was among the two, with Pakistan posting 3 for 255 on this occasion in a century of Mohammad Hafeez.

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.

Australia only played back-to-back maidens twice on the day. In the Ashes, Sydney’s flattest surface, Australia have thrown 70 consecutive balls in a single step. The architects of this dry spell in Sydney were Green and Scott Boland.

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

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