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'Dead, benign' - Steven Smith's assessment of Rawalpindi pitch

With 925 runs scored and only 11 wickets taken after four days, the first Test is on course to a tame draw

Danyal Rasool
Danyal Rasool
Steven Smith said what had been evident to anyone watching any part of the Test match at Rawalpindi. He described the wicket as "dead" and benign", and said it offered little to the seamers. With 925 runs scored and just 11 wickets taken after four days, there was much scrutiny on the nature of the surface.
Traditionally, Rawalpindi has offered seam movement and general assistance to quicker bowlers, but there has been no evidence in this Test. But with Pakistan left-arm spinner Nauman Ali (4 for 107) the only bowler to boast somewhat stellar figures this game, Smith accepted there was a slightly more in it for the spinners.
"It's pretty benign," Smith said of the wicket at the post-day press conference. "There's not a great deal of pace and bounce in it for the seamers. I think the spinners have offered a little bit. When you hit the right length there's been a little bit of natural variation and you know, when you get it out a bit wider into the rough I think there's a little bit there as well. So I thought it would break up a little bit more and probably turn a bit more from the start, but it probably hasn't done so. But yeah, pretty benign, dead wicket."
Smith admitted there was a remote possibility for Australia to force a result if the last three Australian wickets could ensure the visitors got a somewhat healthy lead. "Hopefully, the tail can stay out there for a while. And if they do, they usually score pretty quickly. If they do, there's a decent chance that we'd be able to set a half-decent total to potentially have a bowl at. If we get a hundred or something in front, you just never know with this game. We take a few early wickets, a couple of balls hit the rough, some things happen on day five. So hopefully they can spend a bit of time out there. We'll see how we go."
There is some precedent for Smith's outlandish optimism. In 2015 in Abu Dhabi, Pakistan and England combined for 1,121 runs across the first four days, only for Pakistan to get skittled out for 173 on the final day. England needed just 99 for victory, and it was only poor light that prevented Pakistan falling to a stunning defeat.
On a personal note for the former Australian captain, though, there was disappointment at having missed out on such a conducive wicket. "Pretty annoyed [with the way I got out]," Smith, who fell for 78 trying to sweep Nauman operating with a negative line. "I got a bit greedy with the field they had set. Even if I was hitting that I was probably only getting a single, so disappointed to have worked pretty hard and got myself in a nice position to go on and get a big score.
"I'm disappointed in my shot selection and probably just the position of the game as well. Perhaps if we were five down we might have been able to push a little harder in the morning and potentially set something up for the fourth innings of the match. You never know if you get a 100 lead what can happen so yeah, a bit disappointing."

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000