November 28, 1999

Hopes of salvaging Test dashed

A Jalil

Perth, Nov 27: Any hopes that Pakistan might have entertained of salvaging something from this final Test diminished rapidly as the match progressed on the second day.

Parading his unquestionable prowess for the first time in this series, Ricky Ponting struck a test career best 197 as he and Justin Langer, resuming their overnight stand put the game beyond Pakistan. In the process they put together the highest partnership for any wicket between the two countries. The fact that from Langer's eventual dismissal for an innings-reviving 144 until the last wicket fell on 451, Australia had lost six for 70 mattered little as the door had already been shut on Pakistan.

Pakistan have been totally outplayed during the two days of this Test. Their batsmen have not been able to cope with Australia's attack on the fast, bouncy pitch and the bowlers have been flogged. Despite Pakistan having arguably the world's best bowling attack, it has largely been ineffective. It had been muted by the strips in Brisbane, in the first Test, and Hobart in the second.

Here too it has made little impression in the first innings and it can be said with a degree of confidence that it will not be given much of an opportunity the second time round as in all probability Australia will not need to bat much then, if at all.

Save for Saqlain Mushtaq's 6 for 46 spell in Hobart, the bowling has largely been quite innocuous. Despite all the fanfare about his tilt at the 100mph mark, Shoaib Akhtar had only five wickets at an average of 66 after the first two Tests and now, in Perth, he has added one more victim to his name. Skipper Wasim Akram also has been unspectacular by his lofty standards. He has five in the series at 56.00.

Mohammad Akram's 5 for 138 was an excellent effort but the lack of penetration in Pakistan's bowling generally has been ruthlessly exposed by the two centurions of Australia today. The pace bowlers fell into the common trap of bowling too short on the world's quickest strip.

Mohammad Akram's fine performance was somewhat blemished by the severe reprimand from the match referee John Reid. His clash with Shane Warne during the latter part of Australia's innings, was deemed by the referee to be "intentional and, more importantly, avoidable". As it happened, it wasn't a huge incident. Akram had stuck an elbow out and made contact with Warne as he ran for a single off Akram's bowling.

A statement issued by the match referee after the disciplinary hearing said that Akram had "apologised and showed a sense of remorse for his actions" which happened in the heat of the moment.

Shane Warne himself has been surrounded by controversy over his remarks about a teammate. Pace bowler Scott Muller who played in the first two Tests against Pakistan (making his Test debut), has been upset that his senior team-mate (Warne) was heard to say that he "can't bowl, can't throw". The slur, made on the field during the second Test in Hobart, was picked up by the television microphones and heard publicly. It had resulted from an inaccurate throw by Muller from the out-field.

It is felt that the remark reveals a crack in the team spirit. Warne denies making offending comment but the matter has caused a great uproar and the Australian Cricket Board has been quite concerned that it should not create a rift within the team.