Chasing 490 at the Gabba, Pakistan were expected to slump to a humiliating defeat, and for the most part, they kept their end of the bargain, staggering to 220 for 6. That was when Asad Shafiq stepped up to do what he has made a career out of: score irrelevant, pressure-free runs that make no difference to the outcome of a match. But as he scored a hundred and Pakistan went to a final morning suddenly requiring under 50, the runs were no longer irrelevant. That didn't go unnoticed by Shafiq, and when Starc sent down a beast of a bouncer from around the wicket that threatened to lodge up Shafiq's nostril, he fended it tamely to the slips, where David Warner stood primed.
In our alternative universe, Shafiq, playfully mocked, patronisingly praised, but above all never taken seriously, weighs up the brute Starc delivery, and suddenly - this is the hardest bit to envisage - gets angry. He thinks about how he has scored hundreds in Australia, England and South Africa, which Joe Root, Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson had not managed at that point, and feels he deserves a bit more respect. He leans back and wallops Starc over square leg, using the pace of the ball to heave it into the Gabba crowd. A luscious cover drive then brings up the victory, embarrassing Australia at their proudest Test venue.
Shafiq is no longer the timid, adorable sidekick. Two further hundreds in the remaining two matches see Australia whitewashed in their own backyard. The undoing of the world's most aggressive bowler at the hands of its most timorous batsman is too much for Starc to take. He slinks away in shame, is dropped in disgrace, and is never spoken of again.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000