Sarfraz Ahmed-led side missed the opportunity to start series on a high note
12 October, 2018
Pakistan's old formula, but resulting in a draw was the story of the first Test between the Men in Green and Australia where the Sarfraz Ahmed-led side missed the opportunity to start the series on a high note.
A good batting show in the first innings, where Pakistan scored 482 courtesy centuries by veteran all-rounder Hafeez and left-handed batsman Haris Sohail, was followed by a shambolic display in the second where Pakistan declared when on 181-6.
The counter argument sounds valid that they had to play their shots in order to add to the lead which Australia had gifted them after falling for just 202 in their first innings, all thanks to off-spinner Bilal Asif who extracted bounce and spin from the otherwise dead Dubai pitch. He was assisted by Mohammad Abbas, who has now become one of the regulars with impressive numbers in the wickets column.
A 462-run target then, with nearly 130 overs to play, became too difficult a task for Australia who couldn't stroll past the finish line, but instead they were happy with a draw.
The match will go down as a stalemate in the books, but there a lot of lessons — good and bad — that Pakistan would have learned as they prepare for their second five-day outing against a new-face Australian side.
Hafeez is tailor-made for UAE
Last man to fly for the UAE, not a part of the initial 16-man squad, snubbed for the Asia Cup and earlier the tour of Zimbabwe, but still high on spirit was Hafeez.
A century in the first innings and a record 5th highest opening partnership for Pakistan in Tests, with left-handed Imamul Haq, is what the Professor delivered.
Pakistan maybe looking to lay new foundations in all formats, ones forged with talent and young blood, but experience can and should never be counted out.
Haris needs individual attention
Although he tonned up in the first innings, Haris hasn't looked like himself since recovering from the knee injury, which nearly ended his career.
Scores of 110 and 39 might be a confidence-booster for the 29-year-old, but if he is to maintain his spot in the playing eleven, he will have to deliver consistently, since Misbahul Haq and Younis Khan have themselves backed him time again to turn into one of the middle-order pillars after their departure.
Babar not meant for Tests, at least now
Babar's story in ODIs (average of 51.92 in 51 matches) and T20Is (average of 53 in 20 matches) hasn't been less than a fairytale, but no one would be able to defend his case in Tests where, after 13 outings, he averages perfect 28 with only six fifties.
Pundits also emphasise on the importance of playing domestic four-day cricket in order to develop the temperament for five-day cricket, and it looks like Babar, when off from ODI and T20I duties for Pakistan, should spend some time there.
Was Wahab playing?
Dubai wasn't a good bowling pitch, agreed, but Wahab Riaz was equally ineffective since his only other pace fellow Abbas didn't look bothered on a dry turf.
While the left-arm pacer bowled two maidens in his 11 overs and gave away 39 runs, Abbas bowled 19 and bagged four wickets, leaking away just 29, courtesy nine maidens.
Seems like Wahab had been out of the team for so long, he forgot what it felt like to be in it, or more so what are the demands from you when you are playing as one of only two premium pacers.
Pakistan would've rather given a chance to the 26-year-old left-armer Mir Hamza, who was named in the 16-man-plus-one squad for the two-Test series (sarcasm intended).
Wring the juice out of Bilal
Saeed Ajmal was 31 when they played the first Test and first T20I for Pakistan in 2009, and 30 when he wore the Pakistan jersey for the first-ever time during an ODI against Bangladesh in July 2008.
Bilal is 33, as of now!
Pakistan's tradition of not giving enough chances to youngsters and then calling them when they are drained and old is scathing, but things are changing since Mickey Arthur's arrival, however, Bilal still has been pulled out of an old, dusted file.
What happens next for the off-spinner will be a matter of discussion. Will he be given a chance in ODIs and T20Is as well, does he deserve it, is he the Ajmal kind of bowler etc. are the questions team management needs to find answers to, but for now one thing is clear: play him as much as possible with Yasir Shah to squeeze maximum performances out of him in Tests at least.
Yasir will deliver, needs to rub off rust
Pakistan is playing 'Australia', although one which lacks big names, but still players who are nurtured and grown in near-perfect cricketing systems.
They came prepared for Yasir and they showed how well when the leggie went wicketless in the first innings, but showed signs of life at the later end of the second.
However, Yasir is not a bowler who will wither without wickets. He is the one who thrives under pressure and in the next match and also in the upcoming series againt New Zealand in the UAE he will definitely show why he is rated so highly.
Sometimes, you just need to wait and watch.