Match Analysis

How Mohammad Abbas' simple plan bested Aaron Finch

After testing the opener outside off and denying him room, the seamer moved one in to hit the pad - a result that everyone saw it coming - in a tussle that defined the series

Mohammad Abbas celebrates Aaron Finch's lbw dismissal, Pakistan v Australia, 2nd Test, Abu Dhabi, 4th day, October 19, 2018

Mohammad Abbas celebrates Aaron Finch's lbw dismissal  •  Getty Images

The simplicity of his plan to just bowl at the stumps with nice straight fields, limit your scoring, that's been his real strength. He's just very simple, very good, but nothing we can't overcome in the second dig.
That's Aaron Finch, circa not long before getting dismissed by that very nothing that couldn't be overcome in the second dig.
I think it's nothing that [we] haven't seen before. But I suppose just a little bit of seam there, particularly to new batters, is so important. But I'm sure in the second innings we'll get that right.
Also Finch, circa the same, ahead of that second innings, when they didn't get it any righter.
Fine, this is a slightly mischievous and selective usage of some, not all, of what Finch said, to make a point. Finch and the Australians who have been asked about Mohammad Abbas (see, he doesn't turn into Mohammad Sami if you say his name) have been magnanimous in their praise.
There's no disingenuousness about what Finch said but there's a very modern dismissiveness of his style - 'nothing we haven't seen before', and especially 'he's very simple', which makes him sound like he's the Forrest Gump of fast-medium bowling.
If anything this is the id of the modern batsman at play, the basest instinct that can no longer see any force in the world he cannot dismantle, especially not some unassuming guy of awkward built bowling 129kph. Good length? Just bat outside the crease. Bit of swing? Ditto. Tidy lines? Reverse-smack him into the skies. Yorker? Bouncer? No fear. Come, always come, and come with violence.
Finch, it has to be said, brought far greater refinement to his debut Test series. He was probably Australia's surest batsman, a little like Matthew Hayden in the broadness of his cut at the crease and quite a bit like him in the forcefulness of his play. When he drove, those balls they stayed drove. He didn't defend on the front foot, he showed intent on the front foot. If you tuned in to the series only at those moments when Finch was the striker, Australia didn't look like a team that was about to lose 10 for 60, or about to get bowled out for 145 and 164 at a ground where the average runs per wicket is 37.
But in his battles against Abbas, and more specifically his inability to outlast him, a series acquired its definition, and hubris its unraveling. Finch fell to Abbas three times in four innings, to the same plan. It lacked the utter comprehensiveness of, say, James Anderson over Virat Kohli (in 2014), or Dale Steyn over Mohammad Hafeez, so bunny isn't the right term. These guys established immediate ownership of their batsman, like outright buying a house, cash down, all of it upfront. It's yours. Abbas established his ownership through mortgage, surely and constrictively and stealthily. It's yours, one day, eventually.
The plan was simple, as Finch identified, except that it was also all that was needed, which he perhaps overlooked. The line was just outside off, or at the stumps itself, but no room at all. Of the 118 balls Abbas bowled to Finch, 104 were on these lines. Imagine Finch, a natural dominator, an arms-freed boundary-hitter, here allowed just two boundaries off these balls. Finch actually did well to last as many balls as he did.
Of these 104 deliveries, 78 were on a good length or just short of it and off these 78 Finch could hit no boundaries. Babies can't tell us but this must be how they feel when we're swaddling them good and tight. Our ball-by-ball for whenever Finch faced Abbas could have been a cut and paste job: "no run, good length, on off stump". Abbas got him leg-before twice but over the course of the series, he also had seven other leg-before appeals turned down.
It is through the prism of his duel with Finch that the fullest appreciation of Abbas can be gleaned. Because otherwise, the brothers Marsh and the likes of Travis Head, with Abbas burning up the world as he is and he gets overhead clouds in Abu Dhabi, a bit of drizzle and a rare Abu Dhabi pitch with some moisture and bounce in it - really? How did you think that was going to play out?
At Finch, he had to come with everything but violence. It wasn't only his own patience he was putting up against that of Finch; Finch's shortest innings in terms of balls was 61 and in Dubai, Abbas dismissed him once after he'd been at the crease over three hours and once after he'd been there two. So, Finch had plenty of patience, and because there's no such thing as enough patience it's difficult to say he was defeated by his own lack of it.
To Finch also some technical props; as for Abbas, similarly ball-by-ball could have kept a template ready for Finch's response to a lot of those 118 balls: 'on the front foot, defends solidly/confidently, out to mid-off/cover'. Finch was proactive too, starting to bat far outside the crease to work out ways to put Abbas off, which worked for periods.
Yet, still everyone kind of knew that it would come: Pakistan, Finch, Australia and most of all Abbas. Eventually one would reverse enough, or one would seam back in enough, having wobbled its way through the air, hit his pad and when it did, it'd be dead. Abbas wasn't gambling on this plan, he wasn't hiding it from anyone but neither was he showing it off. This plan was simply a profession of his faith.
And weirdly, it recalled his working over of Mark Stoneman at Lord's.
Weird because it was nothing like this but comes to mind precisely because it was nothing like this. He bowled 12 balls to Stoneman there, displaying all his tricks like a strutting peacock fanning out its feathers. And then he came back here, to Finch, in these conditions and pulled his feathers back in. But still as pretty. Just this one trick here, over and over. Here it is. Remember it. Visualise it. Internalise it. Train yourself to play it. Then ask yourself how it beat you.
And sure, if it makes you feel better, tell yourself it's simple.

Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo