November 27, 1999

Trials and tribulations continue

A. Jalil

Perth, Nov 26: The trials and tribulations of Pakistan's batting have continued unabated. Their ineptitude surfaced disconcertingly in the final Test of the series. It is a match that Pakistan would be aiming to win, not because the result would influence the outcome of the series but simply because it would be a face-saving victory.

Having so timidly allowed Australia to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in Hobart earlier in the week, it is now Pakistan's opportunity to redeem themselves. This would obviously be their intention but their batting, however, gave little impression of what they had in mind.

Certainly no blame for Pakistan's paltry total of 155 can be attributed to the Western Australia Cricket Association pitch. Unlike the typical strip here at Perth, which has a fairly green top, this was supposed to have been prepared for runs. The sight of a hard, brown pitch indicated that this may be the best batting surface on this ground for several seasons.

It made batting practically imperative on winning the toss and it came as no surprise that Wasim Akram decided to make first use of it. Indeed, the Australia captain Steve Waugh said at the end of the day's play that had he won the toss he was going to bat.

The advantage of winning the toss and having a run feast has been lost on Pakistan. Once again it has been the familiar story of a lack of application. It is true that there was movement of the pitch, particularly when Damien Fleming bowled but the downfall of the batsman was poor shot selection. Both of Pakistan's opening batsmen fell in similar fashion, defensively edging the ball to third slip.

Ijaz Ahmad has had one reasonably good Test innings, the second one at Hobart other than that he has looked incapable of scoring runs. There was a general feeling in the Australian camp that Pakistan's batsmen are not used to playing on bouncy pitches and that is likely to cause them problems. Ijaz looked most uncomfortable during his brief stint and soon got out playing a casual drive from which he only succeeded in dragging the ball on to his stumps.

It is true that Australia bowled well but not to the extent that Pakistan should have found themselves in a position of 3 for 26, 4 for 51 and 5 for 83. Yousuf Youhana was unlucky to fall to a brilliant catch, but once again it showed that Pakistan's batsmen were showing a complete disregard to caution and a bit of patience. There was no endeavour to consolidate the innings which was in danger of disintegrating.

It was unusual to see Australia drop catches. Had that not been the case Pakistan's innings would not even have lasted the short duration it did after tea. The top scorer Azhar Mahmood was dropped three times, all off the unfortunate Fleming and twice in one over. The first let off for him was on 18 and he went on to score 39.

Australia appeared to show the same impatience in their innings as Pakistan had done. Neither side had batted as though it was a five-day game. There is no doubt that the limited-overs game has got batsmen to play risky strokes, abandoning the technicalities of batting. It is a view shared by former Australian captain Mark Taylor as he today discussed the fall of such a large number of wickets in a day. Perth, Nov 26: The trials and tribulations of Pakistan's batting have continued unabated. Their ineptitude surfaced disconcertingly in the final Test of the series. It is a match that Pakistan would be aiming to win, not because the result would influence the outcome of the series but simply because it would be a face-saving victory.

Having so timidly allowed Australia to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in Hobart earlier in the week, it is now Pakistan's opportunity to redeem themselves. This would obviously be their intention but their batting, however, gave little impression of what they had in mind.

Certainly no blame for Pakistan's paltry total of 155 can be attributed to the Western Australia Cricket Association pitch. Unlike the typical strip here at Perth, which has a fairly green top, this was supposed to have been prepared for runs. The sight of a hard, brown pitch indicated that this may be the best batting surface on this ground for several seasons.

It made batting practically imperative on winning the toss and it came as no surprise that Wasim Akram decided to make first use of it. Indeed, the Australia captain Steve Waugh said at the end of the day's play that had he won the toss he was going to bat.

The advantage of winning the toss and having a run feast has been lost on Pakistan. Once again it has been the familiar story of a lack of application. It is true that there was movement of the pitch, particularly when Damien Fleming bowled but the downfall of the batsman was poor shot selection. Both of Pakistan's opening batsmen fell in similar fashion, defensively edging the ball to third slip.

Ijaz Ahmad has had one reasonably good Test innings, the second one at Hobart other than that he has looked incapable of scoring runs. There was a general feeling in the Australian camp that Pakistan's batsmen are not used to playing on bouncy pitches and that is likely to cause them problems. Ijaz looked most uncomfortable during his brief stint and soon got out playing a casual drive from which he only succeeded in dragging the ball on to his stumps.

It is true that Australia bowled well but not to the extent that Pakistan should have found themselves in a position of 3 for 26, 4 for 51 and 5 for 83. Yousuf Youhana was unlucky to fall to a brilliant catch, but once again it showed that Pakistan's batsmen were showing a complete disregard to caution and a bit of patience. There was no endeavour to consolidate the innings which was in danger of disintegrating.

It was unusual to see Australia drop catches. Had that not been the case Pakistan's innings would not even have lasted the short duration it did after tea. The top scorer Azhar Mahmood was dropped three times, all off the unfortunate Fleming and twice in one over. The first let off for him was on 18 and he went on to score 39.

Australia appeared to show the same impatience in their innings as Pakistan had done. Neither side had batted as though it was a five-day game. There is no doubt that the limited-overs game has got batsmen to play risky strokes, abandoning the technicalities of batting. It is a view shared by former Australian captain Mark Taylor as he today discussed the fall of such a large number of wickets in a day.

For Pakistan Mohammad Akram, playing his first Test on this tour bowled well at the start. His 3 wickets had cost 30 when Australia were reduced to 4 for 54, matching Pakistan's innings at that stage. But Justin Langer, the hero of Australia's victory in Hobart, distorted Akram's figures as the innings progressed. Along with Ricky Ponting, who has broken a sequence of three consecutive Test 'ducks', he has taken Australia to the relative comfort of 171 for 4.

Pakistan will have to restrict Australia's scoring when play resumes on the second day and dismiss them for not much more to get back in this game. Shoaib Akhtar will need to bowl with greater control than his five overs showed today. If he does, he may have the answers for Pakistan. He has certainly been provided with an ideal pitch to flaunt his talent and capabilities. For Pakistan Mohammad Akram, playing his first Test on this tour bowled well at the start. His 3 wickets had cost 30 when Australia were reduced to 4 for 54, matching Pakistan's innings at that stage. But Justin Langer, the hero of Australia's victory in Hobart, distorted Akram's figures as the innings progressed. Along with Ricky Ponting, who has broken a sequence of three consecutive Test 'ducks', he has taken Australia to the relative comfort of 171 for 4.

Pakistan will have to restrict Australia's scoring when play resumes on the second day and dismiss them for not much more to get back in this game. Shoaib Akhtar will need to bowl with greater control than his five overs showed today. If he does, he may have the answers for Pakistan. He has certainly been provided with an ideal pitch to flaunt his talent and capabilities.