October 22, 2002

Hasan delays Aussie victory charge

Rehan Siddiqui

The inevitable was delayed but the writing was on the wall as Pakistan were certain to lose the third Test against Australia at the end of third day's play here at Sharjah Cricket Stadium Monday despite Hasan Raza's batting heroics.

When bad light stopped play Pakistan were 176 for eight, still needing 47 more runs to make Australia bat for the second time after being forced to follow on. And for the second time in the match, it was youngster Hasan Raza who checked Australian march towards another crushing victory.

Hasan, out of Test arena for nearly four years, was unbeaten on 56 - his second fifty of the match.

Earlier in the first innings, the 20-year-old ran out of partners and remained unconquered on 54.

Hasan's belated exploits in both the innings were the only silver lining for Waqar Younis' demoralized squad.

Hasan reached a gutsy fifty in the second innings in spectacular style by blasting Andy Bichel for three fours. Although uneasy against short-pitched deliveries, Hasan looked by far the best batsman to cope with the wiles of Warne and so far his knock is unblemished having faced 205 deliveries and struck nine boundaries.

Not for the first time in the series, it was another abject display by Pakistani batsmen, Hasan Raza being the only exception, as wickets tumbled around him like nine pins against Warne and the pace of Glenn McGrath, who joined the exclusive club of 400 Test wickets when he trapped Waqar Younis lbw in the first innings.

The deadly duo snared nine victims in the first innings. Warne taking five for 74 and McGrath four for 41 as Pakistan despite a fighting 91-run seventh-wicket stand between Hasan Raza (54 not out) and Saqlain Mushtaq (44) were forced to bat again for being dismissed for 221, having started the day at 163 for six.

Pakistan batsmen did not help their cause by using their pads rather than their bats as five of them were adjudged lbw in the first innings, just pushing forward tentatively or were rooted to their crease.

One wonders what PCB coaches have been teaching the batsmen at the highest level and at the highly publicised and expensive academies. So far half of Warne's 27 victims in the series have been lbw and the wily leg-spinner continues to tease and tantalize Pakistan batsmen with his repertoire of googlies, sliders and flippers.

Things turned to worse in Pakistan's second innings as once again McGrath started the rot and later Warne compounded the plight sending back three batsmen, all falling lbw.

Of course there were couple of debatable decisions by the two elite panel umpires who seem to be getting worse by each match, which did not help Pakistan's cause.

A similar story, even worse than the first, unfolded when Pakistan batted the second time. In no time the three top order batsmen Taufiq Umar, Younis Khan and Faisal Iqbal were back in the dressing room for 18 runs.

Taufiq, one must add here, was extremely unlucky to be given out caught behind by umpire Steve Bucknor. The delivery from McGrath never touched the outside edge of Taufiq's bat.

Younis looked all at sea and soon perished when he padded up to an incoming ball from McGrath. Faisal ran himself out when he went for a needless third run and failed by a couple of inches to make his ground when substitute Nathan Hauritz threw down the stumps at the bowler's end with a spectacular direct hit from the deep.

Hauritz was on the field for Justin Langer, who was taken to hospital during Pakistan's first innings after being hit on the back of his neck by a fierce drive from Hasan Raza.

Imran Farhat once again got out playing an irresponsible stroke while Misbah-ul-Haq, Rashid Latif and Saqlain fell cheaply, all trapped lbw by Warne.

A useful stand of 55 at almost run-a-ball between Hasan and Waqar frustrated the Aussies until McGrath returned to have the latter dismissed for the second time courtesy a Mark Waugh trade-mark catch at second slip.

Australia after the hiccup of the first Test have thoroughly outclassed Pakistan who are going through one of their worst patches and it will require a Herculean effort from the team management to restore the shattered confidence.