Tour and tournament reports

Pakistan vs Australia in 2021-22

A review of Pakistan vs Australia in 2021-22

Taha Hashim
The winning wicket: Pat Cummins is pumped after destroying Naseem Shah's stumps, Pakistan vs Australia, 3rd Test, Lahore, 5th day, March 25, 2022

The winning wicket: Pat Cummins is pumped after destroying Naseem Shah's stumps  •  AFP/Getty Images

Tests (3): Pakistan 0 (8pts), Australia 1 (20pts)
One-day internationals (3): Pakistan 2 (20pts), Australia 1 (10pts)
Twenty20 international (1): Pakistan 0, Australia 1
New Zealand and England had controversially pulled out of trips to Pakistan just months earlier, so Australia's first visit since 1998-99 was wholeheartedly welcomed. "This tour is not just about cricket," declared PCB chief executive Faisal Hasnain on the morning of the First Test. "It's about mutual respect, understanding and admiration." His words set the tone for the next month. At Rawalpindi, Karachi and Lahore, crowds came in not just to hail their own, but to celebrate the return of the Australians, on their first Test tour anywhere since the 2019 Ashes. Camaraderie permeated the trip and, when Shaheen Shah Afridi and David Warner playfully squared up at Lahore, there was never an inkling of malice - just smiles from two men enjoying the contest. The friendliness did not dilute the quality, even if placid surfaces nearly did. The flattest of all was in the First Test at Rawalpindi, where 14 wickets fell in five days, and Pakistan totalled 728 for four across their two innings. "In my view, this does not represent an even contest between bat and ball," wrote match referee Ranjan Madugalle, who rated the pitch "below average".
Still, both teams had pacemen capable of defying the soil beneath their feet. For Pakistan, there were touches of the sublime in the displays of Afridi, 21 years old, and Naseem Shah, 19. Australia, though, could call on a more experienced and complete package: Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins (aged 32 and 28) paid respect to local tradition by excelling with the old ball. Cummins, who finished as the joint-leading wicket-taker in the Test series, with 12 at 22, was immense on his first tour as captain. His side adapted superbly from the breakneck nature of their 4-0 Ashes win to a more sedate style of play; wickets would have to be earned with patience.
It was fitting that such a hard-fought series was decided in the last session of the final game. It was right, too, that Australia were the victors - and they became the first winners of the new Benaud-Qadir Trophy, named in honour of a great leg-spinner from each country. While Cummins starred with the ball, Usman Khawaja put together a stunning run with the bat. He was born in Islamabad and moved to Australia as a boy, so this was a homecoming, and one he embraced. Looking at ease from first innings to last, he scored 97, 160, 44 not out, 91 and 104 not out. A total of 496 runs at 165 made it the most bountiful series of his career, but he could see the wider picture. "This series was bigger than us," he wrote on social media. "We wanted to show the world we care, and to help continue to grow this game that we love."
Pakistan's defeat at Lahore was their first on home soil since they lost to South Africa in October 2007, though this was only the 11th Test there in the meantime. But they could take solace from a first one-day international series win over Australia for almost 20 years. Babar Azam and Imam-ul-Haq each hit two hundreds and a half-century in the three-game series, with Babar lifting his average to an astonishing 59 after 86 one-day internationals. The artistry and versatility of his batsmanship in all formats were something to behold. In the Karachi Test, he batted for more than ten hours to save the match, while in the second ODI he sped Pakistan, chasing 349, towards victory by reaching a hundred from 73 balls. He even found time for a half-century in the Twenty20 game, though he could not prevent an Australian win.