After defeating Pakistan in the International T20 Tri Series final, we embarked a two match test series in the UAE against Pakistan in Short Leg’s first coaching role for a Test match. Coming into the series, speculation was rife concerning who would make the squad and who would be missing out including the injured. The squad decided by the Chairman of Selectors and assistants Ricky Ponting and Mark Waugh would be the team tasked with winning overseas without the big names:
1. Matt Renshaw 2. Joe Burns 3. Usman Khawaja 4. Peter Handscomb 5. Marnus Labuschagne 6. Travis Head 7. Tim Paine (C) (+) 8. Matthew Wade (+) 9. Glenn Maxwell 10. Mitchell Marsh 11. Steven O’Keefe 12. Nathan Lyon 13. Mitchell Starc 14. Josh Hazelwood 15. James Pattinson 16. Jhye Richardson 17. Jon Holland 18. Peter Siddle
When a Hafeezless Pakistan won the toss and opted to bowl first, their decision was looking good early on with Hasan Ali completing a superb caught and bowled to dismiss Burns. Pakistan used their home expertise to their advantage with the selection of 4 seamers and a batting all round spinner which they would hope would prove crucial at the conclusion of the match. Their seamers troubled the Australians initially but the Queensland pair of Renshaw and Khawaja battled defiantly to see the tourists through to Lunch and then Tea on Day 1. Khawaja was the aggressor of the pair and showed some fine form in his shot making vindicating his selection. His 84, including 9 fours and 1 six, kickstarted a remarkable Australian collapse losing 8 wickets for just 91.
Hasan Ali made two breakthroughs at 202 Handscomb falling for a second ball duck after Khawaja. Opener Renshaw had batted patiently and intelligently before a lapse in concentration ended a 249 ball knock and his chances of a second Test match hundred. Travis Head was the next highest scorer behind the Queensland duo with a solid but unspectacular 28 whilst Glenn Maxwell (19), on his return to Test cricket, and captain/keeper Tim Paine fell to Mohammed Abbas. The double A’s Amir and Abbas removed Pattinson and Lyon respectively leaving Australia 291-9 before a sharp Amir bouncer prematurely ended the innings of Australia and resigning fast bowler Josh Hazelwood to the medical table, where he stayed for the rest of the match.
The typical Matt Renshaw innings with a strong presence on the offside.
With the added blow of losing fast bowler Josh Hazelwood, Australia had to turn to James Pattinson on his long awaited return to 5 day cricket to take the new ball with Starc and both started unconvincingly. Off spinner Nathan Lyon also began poorly as openers Sami Aslam and Azhar Ali capitalised on a sluggish start until the score was 67 when all rounder Glenn Maxwell found Ali’s edge caught by Renshaw. Aslam pushed on towards the final session of Day 2 with support by the talented Babar Azam – it was going to be a long field day for the tourists!
Sami Aslam struck his 16th four consequently bringing up his impressive ton but he soon fell for 112 with Starc swinging the old ball into the pads at 190-2. Azam and Shafiq guided Pakistan to the close of Day 2 but the latter was soon dismissed by Lyon early into the morning finding more bounce which clipped the back pad. Bowling in pairs, Maxwell shortly removed Azam’s off stump for a well made 74 and had Pakistan 232-4. Debutant Hussain Talat began in fine form wonderfully caressing the ball to the boundary despite losing partners. Mitchell Starc removed Sohail (16) with Joe Burns taking the catch before seaming partner James Pattinson took a remarkable caught and bowled of Captain Safaraz Ahmed (13).
Talat and Ashraf extended the hosts lead with a 47 run partnership and Hasan Ali provided lower order runs in a 33 run partnership with Talat. Glenn Maxwell took the crucial wicket of Talat for 83 shortly after Ashraf played a wild slash to Renshaw at leg slip for 24. Highlighting Lyon’s lack of profligacy, Maxwell wrapped up the innings with figures of 6-100 Ali (15) and Abbas (0) falling in successive balls but left the hosts 103 runs ahead.
With a large deficit in front of them the Aussies needed a solid start and had a comfortable opening before at 36-1 Burns was caught and bowled again this time by Amir. The reunion of Renshaw and Khawaja caused problems for the Pakistan as they looked to settle into their innings albeit some poor fielding and dropped catches. As reverse swing became a factor, Renshaw on 38 succumbed to Abbas’s in dipper and left the Australians 2 down and still behind their lead. Peter Handscomb quickly got himself of a pair and showed great maturity and composure. The ominous partnership reached 84 before Abbas this time held onto one from Khawaja (61) off his own bowling. Travis Head endured a tricky Test debut falling for 1 to Amir before a counter attacking knock from Maxwell was swiftly complete compiling 32 from 37 but exiting as the Aussies reached 207-5.
Cometh the hour when Australia needed a big and vital partnership, Handscomb and leader of men Tim Paine joined together in a 156 run stand prompting Pakistan frustration and disappointment in the field. Handscomb completed his ton with a splendid on drive and soon Paine had his half century, knocking the ball around expertly. Paine’s resistance was ended by Hasan Ali for 75 which was added by the departure of Handscomb for 134 to Ashraf completing the Pakistan fightback as Australia were 373-7. A valuable 41 runs were added between Starc, Pattinson and Lyon therefore pushing the score beyond 400 and leaving a 312 run chase on a degrading Day 5 pitch.
Amir’s 4 wicket haul giving Pakistan a strong chance at successfully chasing down 312 after Captain Paine’s hard fought resilience.
Encountering a difficult but manageable chase in home conditions on the final day, Pakistan set out their stall with aggressive but calculated batting from the openers against Starc and Pattinson’s pace and swing. Soon after an early 50 partnership, first inning centurion Sami Aslam (34) provided a thin edge for Paine to hold on to for Nathan Lyon’s first wicket. Another 50 run partnership between Azam and Azhar Ali had put Pakistan in a commanding position but were swiftly pegged back as Maxwell and Renshaw combined for the dismissal of Ali (39). Approaching 50 himself, Azam was at a loss to explain his decision to slog Pattinson which saw his stumps dismantled.
From 140-3, Talat and Shafiq gave Pakistan a fantastic platform to win from with an aggressive and quickfire 103 run partnership which took with it the diminishing hope of an Australian victory. Talat played a heavily off sided game in contrast to Shafiq’s leg side game ultimately creating a harder task for the tourists. However, the ever reliable Mitchell Starc through the game up in the air with back to back dismissals. Shafiq played on for 56 at 243 before 19 runs later Talat departed for 70 after being pinned on the pads. A mini lower order collapse was caused with Sohail (8) and Ashraf (1) falling to the deadly duo of Lyon and Starc. Hovering at 269-7 still requiring 42 to win in the final 11 overs, Lyon took the key wicket of the last remaining “batsman” in Safaraz Ahmed (10) at 280-8. However, Mohammed Amir and Hasan Ali remained strong in defence and resiliently blocked out the remaining half a dozen overs to end this classic Test match in a well fought out draw.
Almost but not quite for Pakistan who couldn’t get over the line!
Lyon and Starc were the key bowlers in Australia’s quest for a win ending in a draw.
Usman Khawaja produced two defiant, determined and profitable innings assisting Australia to a well earnt draw. In general, we played some fantastic cricket and the 156 run stand between Handscomb and Paine was crucial for setting Pakistan a total with the hope of bowling them out. As a team, we stood together firmly and strongly and helped to provide a spectacular Test match which ebbed and flowed. The loss of fast bowler Josh Hazelwood before he had bowled a ball hampered our chances but our main bowlers were ably supported by Glenn Maxwell and part time options which all contributed to a pleasing performance.
Heading into the final Test match of 2 in the series, it is likely that Hazelwood will miss the match supplying an opportunity for seamers Jhye Richardson and Peter Siddle to deputise or alternatively spin with Steve O’Keefe and Jon Holland waiting in the wings. Mitchell Marsh could come into contention as a bowling allrounder meanwhile Travis Head’s poor debut showing puts pressure on his spot in the side. Revisit the site to see the outcome of the second test match between Pakistan and Australia which will be a mouth watering contest to decide the victor of the series! The team are overwhelmed by the support.