November 29, 1999

Alas, they had noted the pace and bounce of wicket

A. Jalil

Perth, Nov 28: Australia truncated proceedings in the final Test bringing the curtain down on the series shortly before tea on the third day. With it, they also brought relief to the visiting team and those present with the interest of Pakistan's cricket at heart.

The humiliation of watching their side sliding rapidly towards an ignominious defeat would not have been easy for the players to bear, it would only have prolonged the agony. That they went down to the world's finest present-day cricket team was of no consolation.

Pakistan had their chances earlier in the series which they squandered but in this Test they were simply no match for Australia. There is, of course, no doubt and widely acknowledged that the uniqueness of the pitch here in Perth has a major influence on a team's performance. No where in the world is there a wicket which can hold claims to the bounce and pace of this exceptional strip.

It is for that reason alone that it requires a little bit of a change in the thought process. This is one ground where it is difficult to get used to conditions if you haven't played on it before. It demands a disciplined approach from batsmen and bowlers alike. Those who can adapt their game a little are rewarded, those with poor patience or chinks in their defence are quickly exposed.

None of the current Pakistan team has played a Test here before. It is interesting to note that Pakistan have played three Tests in Perth previously and lost them all by huge margins. The last occasion being as long as sixteen years ago.

In 1978-79 Pakistan lost by seven wickets, 1981-82 by 286 runs and in 1983-84 by an innings and nine runs. Their defeat today was the heaviest.

However, pakistan is not isolated in not lasting the duration of the Test. The last four Tests on this ground have ended inside four days dating back to Sri Lanka's defeat in December 1995.

The difference between the approach and game plan of Pakistan and Australia stood out both in batting and bowling. Mohammad Akram had a lot to prove, having been given a Test after an absence of three years, he grabbed the opportunity and bowled splendidly in spells. Azhar Mahmood and Shoaib Akhtar strayed in their direction and bowled short of length. Shoaib got a little carried away with all the hype about his speed and the terror that it might cause on this pitch.

On the other hand, the experience of Australia's bowlers, who have the benefit of playing here in both Test as well as domestic matches, has counted for much. All three pace bowlers demonstrated that the fine art of bowling on this particular pitch relies on adherence to a disciplined line and length as much as any other factor.

Glenn McGrath, usually the quickest of the three who played here, showed the value of throttling back his pace a fraction to concentrate on hitting the right spot.

In batting too local knowledge proved to be crucial with Justin Langer and Ricky Ponting showing great form. Ponting (man of the match) who has played four Tests on this ground and gave a brilliant display of strokes in his innings, was unlucky to miss a double century by just three runs. He had also missed, by four runs, his hundred on his Test debut here.

But it was the man of the series, Justin Langer who showed the way to bat on his 'home' ground. He batted with confidence and authority. He pulled the innings round after it was severely dented and set it on course, leading it to a large total. His technique was perfect on a pitch he knows as well as his back-yard.

Pakistan's batsmen could not cope with the bounce and pace with the exception of Ijaz Ahmed, whose brave effort and excellent century today saved Pakistan from being routed again as in the first innings. He had valuable stands with Moin Khan and Wasim Akram whose hard hitting fifty was entertaining in a Pakistan innings which lacked sparkle.

Despite losing to a three-nil clean sweep by Australia, it has to be said that Pakistan had their moments. In Brisbane it was felt that the margin of defeat had exaggerated the difference between the two sides. In Hobart we saw a fascinating Test which Pakistan should have won but failed to press home the advantage and Australia coolly snatched it away. Here in Perth, Pakistan were utterly outplayed