Pakistan woke up this morning believing they could pull off a world record chase and surprise Australia at the MCG. But the first over of the morning, from Mitchell Johnson, effectively put paid to any such hopes. Umar Akmal and Misbah-ul-Haq fell off consecutive balls and a robust overnight position suddenly became 170-5.
Mohammad Yousuf, Pakistan's captain who was unbeaten overnight on 47, was confident his side could get the further 251 runs, on what was still a good surface for batting, but admitted Johnson's first over "killed" their chances. "I was 70% confident maybe we will win, because 251 in 90 overs, if we don't give away early wickets [was possible] and maybe they [would] come under more pressure," he said. "The first over put us under pressure. Johnson's first over killed us."
The 170-run loss was Pakistan's tenth successive Test loss to Australia, a run stretching back ten years, to 1999. There were moments on the third and fourth day where Pakistan battled hard, but Yousuf felt the game was essentially lost during the first couple of days, a period where Pakistan bowled and fielded poorly. "In the first innings we didn't bowl in the right areas and our fielding was poor," he said. "We dropped a couple of catches and both the openers made 90-plus. We were a little shaky in the first innings with bat and ball. If we had got them for 300 and gotten 250 ourselves, it would have been a different game.
"The bowling didn't happen I think on the first day in the right places. We tried to get too many out, whereas Australia bowled to contain runs and they got wickets from that. In the second innings we did that and we managed to pick up wickets."
Pakistan travel to Sydney on New Year's eve, where the second Test begins on January 3. Despite the loss, Yousuf remains confident the positives from Melbourne can help his side fight back. There is already talk of Pakistan playing two spinners at the SCG, even if it isn't quite the turner now that it has been. Danish Kaneria is fit, after missing the MCG Test due to a finger injury.
"There are positives from here, in some performances, especially Mohammad Aamer in the second innings," Yousuf said. "He pitched the ball in the right areas and that's why he took five wickets. Umar Akmal and Misbah-ul-Haq both batted well in the first innings as well but we have all areas to improve in.
"We haven't seen the wicket [at Sydney]. But if it's the same wicket we saw last matches, hopefully maybe two [spinners]. Some games I saw in Sydney, if it behaves the same it may be difficult for Australia."
There might be more personnel changes by the time the Test begins. Pakistan's team management has already asked the selection committee to send Younis Khan, the former captain, to reinforce the batting order. Pakistan's batsmen have struggled in this Test, with few exceptions, and their top order is particularly wobbly. They have tried four different one-downs in four Tests, though nobody has convinced. The request for Younis was made a few days ago but a decision is expected sometime today.
"Obviously Younis is a very experienced player and a very good player," Yousuf said. "He's got a 50 average in Test matches. We miss him a lot, he is a very crucial number three. We already told them to send him, so they will decide now. They have not decided yet so I don't know when he is coming. I have spoken [with him]. He is willing to play. We lost here but we are looking forward to two Test matches. The series is not finished yet. Hopefully, we will be trying harder the next game."
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo