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Match Analysis

Cameron Green, Alex Carey and the acing of a subcontinent test

In the 2000s, the fall of Australia's fifth wicket would mean the fun was just beginning. It looks like those days might be back again

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
Cameron Green sent hearts fluttering with one of the shots of the series off Shaheen Afridi  •  AFP/Getty Images

Cameron Green sent hearts fluttering with one of the shots of the series off Shaheen Afridi  •  AFP/Getty Images

There was once a time in Australia's golden age at the start of the new millennium when their fifth wicket fell, the fun would begin.
No matter how many or how few the much-vaunted top order had compiled, Adam Gilchrist waltzed out to join Damien Martyn, as Australia's Nos. 6 and 7 produced either a fearsome counterattack, or mercilessly piled on the pain. Four times they piled up century sixth-wicket stands, including a double and a triple.
But it has been a while since a lower-order pairing has been so prolific. Leading into Lahore, Australia had produced just two century stands for the sixth wicket since the 2019 Ashes, and just two away from home in the last decade.
The last time Australia had a century stand for the sixth wicket in Asia was in Chennai in 2013 between Michael Clarke and Moises Henriques, when Cameron Green was barely in high school and Alex Carey was making his first-class debut for South Australia.
All that changed on Tuesday, and this Australia side looks far stronger for it. Green and Carey combined for an eye-catching 135-run stand that not only dug the visitors out of a precarious position at 206 for 5 prior to stumps on day one, but also pushed the game forward at a pace that has rarely been seen in this series to date.
Australia's first foray into Asia in four years is not only a fact-finding mission, but also a sink-or-swim exercise for the likes of Green and Carey, who had each never played a red-ball game in Asia prior to the first Test of this series against Pakistan. But both have proven themselves as fast learners, and are swimming proficiently by the third Test, albeit on surfaces that have not been technically demanding for batters.
"Over in the subcontinent you don't get caught behind as much," Green said. "The main learning curve I've had to do was to bat on leg stump - and learn to feel comfortable with that. Obviously, if you do that in Australia, you probably can nick off a lot more and you're not too worried about getting lbw because it's probably going over.
"But over here, everything goes underground. So the main learning curve is trying to get used to batting on leg stump - and then obviously with the spin bowlers, how you play them with the ball keeping a bit lower and turning a bit more."
The pair looked every bit as assured as Usman Khawaja and Steven Smith had on day one. They took advantage of the second new ball's hardness and prospered.
Green's patented early nerves were nowhere to be seen. He sent hearts fluttering with one of the shots of the series off Shaheen Shah Afridi. Standing tall, using all of his 200cm, he crunched the left-armer off the back foot through cover-point. It was a shot his batting coach Beau Casson had been encouraging him to play on slower pitches, and he unfurled it in a statement of intent.
Carey, meanwhile, produced some stunning cover drives on the up to continue with the form he showed in Karachi.
The pair was not bogged down against spin too. Green was light on his feet and more decisive than he had been in the previous two Tests, while Carey took to Nauman Ali and Sajid Khan with a mix of slog sweeps, reverse sweeps and cover drives against the turn, as they raced to fifty apiece and a century stand inside the first session. Green gave a unique insight as to why the pair had worked so well together.
"It's something I've found recently that I look at the partnership score instead of my own score," he said. "Firstly, it takes a bit of pressure off myself when I look up the scoreboard and I'm only on 12 - let's say - but if the partnership is on 30, you feel a lot calmer.
"So that's kind of what I've been trying to do recently to focus on the partnerships and then your own score will obviously gradually increase. So that's kind of what me and Alex did. Obviously, at the time we needed a big partnership. Kez batted awesome."
"Unfortunately, just lack of concentration... I thought I saw the ball go away from me, but it came back in"
Green on how reverse swing made him miss out on a century
But the game changed after lunch. Carey had a lapse in concentration and was trapped lbw to Nauman for 67, leaving Green with the tail as the ball was starting to reverse. Green had negotiated Hasan Ali well with the ball tailing in, striking two boundaries in one over. But Babar Azam turned back to Naseem Shah, who made the ball talk at 140kph.
"He bowled really well all day, Naseem," Green said. "He was getting the ball to reverse pretty largely both ways. Basically what I've been doing is obviously a bit different to what Smudge [Steven Smith] does. Smudge tries to get really far across and negate lbw, where I'm trying to get my legs out of the way and just play with my hands basically."
It worked for four balls against Naseem in the 125th over, but not for the fifth, as a 140.9kph length ball veered back through the gate to clatter into Green's middle stump.
"Unfortunately, just lack of concentration when you've been batting out there for a while," Green said. "I thought I saw the ball go away from me, but it came back in."
It is a steep learning curve for Green, as he fell between 74 and a coveted Test century for the fourth time in his short career.
"Unfortunately, I keep having thoughts go through my head when I'm out in the middle," Green said. "It's starting to get a bit of an issue now because it keeps popping in so I've got to keep working on that, feeling comfortable when you get close to it and hopefully it comes one day."
If he and Carey keep their minds on the partnership, their day will come.

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo