Mohammad Asif completed a stunning six-wicket haul before the end of his 18th over as part of Pakistan's broader demolition of Australia. In union with Mohammad Sami, who dismissed Australia's top three batsmen before the first drinks break, Asif exploite
Mohammad Asif completed a career-best six-wicket haul as part of Pakistan's broader demolition of Australia that called into question Ricky Ponting's decision to bat first on a Sydney green-top. In union with Mohammad Sami, who dismissed Australia's top three batsmen before the first drinks break, Asif exploited the heavy pitch and atmospheric conditions to full effect to rout Australia for 127 - their second-lowest total batting first at the SCG and worst at home since 1996.
Ponting was left to rue the decision to bat first on a green, seaming pitch after rain delayed the coin toss until shortly before 2pm. Not since his infamous decision to send England into bat at Edgbaston in 2005 has Ponting called correctly and opted to bowl. How he must wish to have his time over.
Only a 44-run eighth-wicket stand between Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Hauritz saved Australia from complete embarassment although, as it stood, the humiliation ran deep enough. Sami, playing his first Test in more than two years following a stint in the unauthorised ICL, scythed through Australia's top order with seven overs of express pace and prodigious movement to account for Phillip Hughes, Ponting and Shane Watson before the first drinks break.
Asif then swung into gear in the period leading up to tea with the wickets of Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, Marcus North and Brad Haddin. He went onto remove Hauritz and Johnson to finish with the career-best figures of 6 for 41 as Australia were rolled inside 45 overs.
Pakistan's opening batsmen, Imran Farhat and Salman Butt, added 14 runs without loss before bad light stopped play 4.1 overs into the tourists' innings. Both survived the odd anxious moment, particularly against Doug Bollinger, but their battles paled into insignificance compared to those experienced by the Australian batsmen against a Pakistan attack at its enigmatic best.
Sami was an eleventh-hour inclusion in the Pakistani side after the withdrawal of Mohammad Aamer, one of the heroes of Melbourne, with a groin injury. The move almost paid immediate dividends when Sami had Hughes, a replacement for the injured Simon Katich, dropped by the hard-handed Umar Akmal at backward point from his first delivery. Retribution followed in the next over, however, when Sami lured Hughes into an aggressive push to a straighter, fuller delivery that flew low to Faisal Iqbal at second slip.
The inspired paceman then removed Ponting with his very next ball, wafting at a shorter delivery that reared off the surface, and might well have completed a hat-trick had Billy Doctrove ruled Watson out to an excellent lbw appeal that struck him on the front toe. The Pakistanis sent the decision for video review, however Hawk-Eye confirmed Sami's 150kph bolt had struck the batsman outside the line of off stump. Watson successfully dodged that bullet, but was not so lucky in Sami's next over, edging a seaming, straightening delivery to Kamran Akmal.
That left Sami with figures of 3 for 5 from his first four overs, and Australia gasping for breath. Clarke rounded out an eventful hour by successfully overturning Asoka de Silva's decision to adjudge him lbw to an Umar Gul delivery that was comfortably clearing the stumps, but his defiance ended shortly after the drinks break when he was bowled through the gate to an Asif delivery that straightened off the pitch.
The task fell to Hussey and North, both well short of peak form, to pull Australia from the mire. Neither looked comfortable repelling Asif's relentlessly probing lines and it came as little surprise when Hussey fell to a top-edged pull-stroke that was accepted by Misbah-ul-Haq in the slips. North followed next ball, waving at a delivery outside his off-stump, and Asif completed the first session rout by removing an attack-minded Haddin.
Australia enjoyed a brief period of respite in the final session as Johnson and Hauritz took the attack to the Pakistanis. The hosts showed no nerves through the nineties - a curious twist on an oft-mentioned topic this summer - as the lower-order duo pounded 17 runs from one Danish Kaneria over to guide the team into triple figures.
But the wheels fell off thereafter. Hauritz was bowled to an Asif delivery angled back into the right-hander, while Johnson fell attempting to loft over extra-cover. Umar Gul completed the rout with the final wicket of Doug Bollinger - the sixth Australian batsman to post a single-figure total - to close out the hosts' innings in just 44.2 overs.
Much will be made of Ponting's "anti-Edgbaston" moment at the coin toss, but few of Pakistan's wickets were the result of exaggerated aerial or surface movement. Disciplined Pakistani bowling and questionable Australian decision-making played as much of a role in the hosts' disintegration as swing or seam. Let the inquest begin.