'Feel like I was playing in Faisalabad' - Mohammad Asif
Pakistan's plans to test Ricky Ponting's elbow with short-pitched bowling were scuppered by an MCG surface doing a fair impression, according to Mohammad Asif, of the famously lifeless tracks of Faisalabad.
Asif was Pakistan's most successful bowler on a tough Boxing Day start to the series for the tourists, ending with two wickets as Australia steadily built up their total through near-centuries from Shane Watson, Simon Katich and a brief, but sparkling fifty from Ponting. The Australian captain was a doubt for this Test until two days ago due to an elbow injury sustained during the Perth Test against West Indies.
Chris Gayle, the West Indies captain, reckoned after the match that his bowlers had opened up a "glaring" chink in Ponting's armour, claiming the short, quick ball troubled him. Kemar Roach had struck him with one in the first innings, forcing him to retire hurt. As was widely expected, Pakistan's attack - and the swift Mohammad Aamer in particular - tried going short to Ponting, but with little success. Asif, who eventually dismissed him with a fuller length ball, put it down to the flatness of the surface.
"[The pitch is] not really good," he said. "Actually the pitch was a real batting track and really slow. I just feel like I was playing in Faisalabad, in Pakistan. I don't think this is an MCG pitch, or an Australian pitch. I'd heard that it was bouncy and fast, but it was slow and had low bounce.
"We had a plan against Ponting, short-pitched, but the pitch was against the plan, quite slow, low bounce. We already had three fast bowlers and their openers did very well, they didn't make mistakes. We accept that. Then we were tired and they made runs. We are just three fast bowlers and when Ponting came, we were really tired. Aamer bowled a few good bouncers but we had to change plans eventually."
Ponting fell to the second new ball late in the afternoon, having sped to 57 off just 60 balls. He had upped the tempo as soon as he came in, picking off a soft ball and tired attack with little trouble; Asif engaged him in an intriguing old ball battle, but decided finally to take the new ball after 82 overs.
"Ponting and [Michael] Hussey played well and they were scoring seven to eight runs every over," Asif said. "I just felt why not change the ball and so asked the captain, thinking we may have chance with new ball. He said OK, do if you want to do and that was only chance we got and it worked."
Pakistan's attack was hit by Danish Kaneria's withdrawal on the morning of the Test with a finger injury he picked up originally in New Zealand. Saeed Ajmal toiled away for long spells, but with no fortune. "We missed Danish on this surface," said Asif. "We had a plan to play two spinners but the ball hit his finger in practice and he couldn't play. My personal opinion is we missed him."
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo