Pakistan went into the first Test against Australia at Dubai on a real low. They were beaten and bruised in the one day series that preceded the Tests. There was so much commotion in the team over the leadership as well, with Misbah-Ul-Haq voluntarily sitting out of the final match, and Shahid Afridi taking over the leadership. Afridi also spoke brazenly about his views on leadership, leaving the PCB in an embarrassing situation. Under the circumstances, no one gave Pakistan much of a chance as they headed into the opening Test. However, with Pakistan anything is possible, and it must be said that they came up with an incredible show.
There were numerous heroes in Pakistan’s memorable win, but none bigger than veteran Younis Khan, their most experienced batsmen. Khan, who made no bones about the fact that he was disappointed following the ODI axe, even daring the selectors to drop him from the Test team, batted with great resolve. Khan actually batted as if he had a point to prove. He doesn’t have to prove any. However, in both the innings Khan batted as if this was his last opportunity to prove himself. It was only fitting that the record of most Test tons by a Pakistani was passed on to Khan.
Khan apart, there were many others batting heroes as well for Pakistan. Wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed batted brilliantly in the first innings to slam a quick ton. Considering that Pakistan have struggled with their lower-order batting, Ahmed’s success is extremely significant. Asad Shafiq’s 89 was also crucial to Pakistan’s impressive first-innings total. Skipper Misbah-Ul-Haq’s 69 might fade in comparison, but in the wake of his recent struggles it was a much-wanted performance. The Pakistan captain looked a lot more confident out in the field once he had runs behind him.
Not least of all, Pakistan would be pleased by the second-innings century by Ahmed Shehzad. Opening has been a massive problem for Pakistan over the last couple of years. They have tried various combinations in recent times, but none have worked, as a result of which they have actually had to recall non-performing players like Mohammad Hafeez and Taufeeq Umar. In fact, even in this Test, they had two different combinations for the two innings. With Shehzad coming up with an impressive ton, Pakistan would hope that at least one half of the opening woes get solved.
Pakistan’s spinners also came to the fore in the massive win. Zulfiqar Babar and Yasir Shah tormented the hapless Australian bowlers in both the innings, thus proving that on spinning conditions they still have bowlers who can win them games. They were particularly lethal in the second innings when the pitch started assisting them the most. Babar and Shah were well supported by the other bowlers as well. Of course, it became very easy for them with Babar and Shah claiming wickets at will. It is not every day that we can say this, but it was indeed a near flawless performance by Pakistan.
--By A Cricket Analyst