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Never at any point did Pakistan believe they could win this Test and for that alone they deserved the sorry fate that befell them at the SCG
January 6, 2010
Pakistan's grip on this Test was going the minute they took a 206-run lead in the first innings. This morning, with Australia effectively 80 for 8 they knew they had lost it. Hollywood rehab clinics have fewer mental frailties than this side.
Like in Melbourne last week, never at any point did Pakistan believe they could win this Test and for that alone they deserved the sorry fate that befell them at the SCG. Publicly Australia spoke yesterday as if they could win this. Pakistan, publicly and privately, only wished they could win this.
The morning session was bizarre and instructive, possibly the worst session of leadership of a side in such a dominant position. Sides giving up 200-plus leads in Tests had only won five times ever after all. But Mohammad Yousuf thought Michael Hussey was Bradman and Peter Siddle that Bradman of tailenders, Jason Gillespie, and that Australia were 700 for 3. Effectively they were 80 for 8, Hussey had been dropped thrice and Pakistan began with eight men on the boundary. A more winning lost cause is difficult to conjure.
Yousuf has surprised people with his leadership here, but today was the worst of him; defensive, unimaginative, sluggish and unwilling to take risk. Inzamam-ul-Haq's beard is there and maybe the worst of his captaincy spirit was also floating around. From there, whatever the chase, the writing was being written on the wall.
And then nothing matters in these chases for Pakistan; people talk of flat pitches, overhead conditions, surviving the new ball and playing out the old. But the only thing that matters is that it's them. They could be chasing 90 on cement, with a tennis ball and in 45 degrees heat, but this batting line-up will find a way to get out for less. Who the opponent was didn't really matter. They were called Panickstan here once, long ago. A regurgitation is in order.
Three times this year they have done it - in Sri Lanka, in New Zealand and now. This will hurt the most because it isn't every day that you dominate Australia, any Australia side, for three days and lose on the last. Australia, any Australia side, still know how to win and more importantly they know how not to throw matches away. Their players are brought up doing it. Peter Siddle's innings is shining testament to that ethic. Pakistan's tail presents a sorry contrast. Pakistan know simply how to play well every now and again, not to win, or avoid losing. That might never come and if it does it will take time.
The Test was lost at many other stages and that is the wretchedness of Pakistan's cricket that they could've won it still. They should've shut out Australia with their first innings, instead batting like lemons and not posting an insurmountable lead. Yousuf keeps talking about how much Twenty20 cricket is destroying Pakistan's batsmen and with the kind of batting seen here - not least his own dismissals - it is a persuasive argument.
Kamran Akmal dropped the Test four times himself through the second innings. He has been better this last year but he should've been dropped a few years ago; if he keeps getting selected, there is every chance now and again this may happen. His batting was crucial in New Zealand, but it's been ill-judged here. Misbah-ul-Haq, Faisal Iqbal - should they really be in this line-up?
And yet still it boggles the mind. It will do for many days. Knowing all this, feeling all along that they may lose this, to see it play itself out as it did is deeply affecting. To watch such an implosion, from such a position, can break you. Who knows what living it can do. Still the question: how have they lost it? Everyone knows but nobody understands, least of all the side itself.
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