Mohammad Yousuf slams Salman Butt's running
Had Pakistan not turned up for this series, Australia might have had a tougher time winning it. The tourists' generosity has scarred this contest through three Tests. More catches have already been dropped than there are seagulls in Hobart; this afternoon, just as Australia were beginning to understand the toil required to break through on this surface, came two more gifts, borne of an ineptitude that was laughable and horrific.
First went the skipper, Mohammad Yousuf, who was attempting a legitimate third only to realise too late that Salman Butt wasn't even moving. Soon after, Umar Akmal happened upon the same realisation, that Butt wasn't running for a tight but gettable single, as the day closed. The two best Pakistani batsmen gone in a trice and a miserable second day for Pakistan complete; saving this Test now will be as much as a win.
The blame, Yousuf was surprisingly candid later, lay fully with Butt. So candid that he even had a pop, with a tired smile, at Butt's priorities.
"I don't think there was anything of panic," said Yousuf. "Three easy runs were there, if somebody is not coming out of the box, what can anyone do? He must come out, or shout he doesn't want to come. Not like this.
"We are not playing for self, we are playing for the country. I am 35 years old, if I get three runs, he is 25 years old, why can he not run? Me and him did the same 140 overs of fielding. We play for the country here not self. He is a little lazy runner everybody knows that."
Ricky Ponting said run-outs like that are not a good sign around a team and that is to be taken as ominously as it sounds. Pakistan have come apart since Sydney, playing like men whose insides are already broken. Yousuf lingered forever after the dismissal, not so much in anger it seemed as in unknowing bewilderment; what, after all, can be done when your team plays cricket as intrinsically stupid as this? Where do you begin to resolve the situation? He did well to get back to the dressing room without keeling over in frustration.
"I just stopped, not saying anything. I was just very sad because he is 25 and he can't run," he said. "That is why I was standing there. I cannot say anything to him. I am not coming back, I can only back him to play a long innings. On a flat wicket, two run-outs are very disappointing."
Rain stands between Pakistan and a fourth successive whitewash at the hands of Australia and because of the lessened nature of this Australian side, this should hurt more than the efforts of 1999-00, 2002-03 and 2004-05; genius burst out of the Australian sides that inflicted those defeats. But Yousuf still believes in two things.
The first is that this Pakistan side has done better than those in the past here. "One thing I tell you," he said, tired and pensive. "Over the past years, many teams come here from Pakistan with big players and nobody performed like this, like we did here. Obviously we lost the series but we at least came near winning.
"We are a young team, with averages like 25, 30, 27, 28 it is very difficult. I appreciate my team, they are trying to deliver whatever they can. I am happy with my team performance and I think they are trying everything. We've won just one game in 1996 and many teams came here and lost everything, not even getting close like we did in Sydney. I think we are not bad here."
He also believes that Pakistan - or fate - can save this Test. Rain is forecast over the next couple of days. "It is difficult to save this game. It is a very flat wicket, but if we play for the country and try to survive sessions, not go for runs, every session we try to save, maybe we can save the game. It is difficult but not impossible. We cannot give up on it."
There is nobility in both beliefs and that is admirable in a way. But they are ultimately as poorly-judged as Butt's running.
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo