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COMMENT: Australia in a tangle facing the inevitable

Updated October 11, 2018

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Pakistan off-spinner Bilal Asif (L) celebrates with team-mates after taking the wicket of Australian opener Usman Khawaja during the first Test at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Tuesday. — File Photo / AFP
Pakistan off-spinner Bilal Asif (L) celebrates with team-mates after taking the wicket of Australian opener Usman Khawaja during the first Test at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Tuesday. — File Photo / AFP

A TARGET of 462 is always a monumental one for any side chasing and if we peep through the history of cricket we would find that only a couple of times this has happened and that too with a lot of luck in the favour of the team batting last.

Pakistan would have done so too in a Test against Australia at the Gabba in Brisbane in 2016 when they asked to chase down 490. On that occasion Misbah-ul-Haq’s charges almost created history with Asad Shafiq making a truly brilliant century (127), but sadly in vain.

Here is an absolutely contrasting situation the largely inexperienced Australia are now face against the same opposition in their endeavour to achieve a virtually impossible task. In the quest of it, the Aussies have, quite understandably already, adopted a defensive approach as they bid to survive the remaining three sessions on this final day today.

The situation is not in their favour having already lost three wickets to Mohammad Abbas who despite his restricted ability is not just a wicket-taking seamer but an intelligent one as well and one who has excelled against every opposition he has played against thus far.

Abbas’s quality is, of course, his nagging length and line and accuracy to go with, not allowing the batsmen to take liberty against him for the simple reason that he makes them play all the time, varying his pace and gaining movement of the pitch.

There is never any showmanship or razzmatazz in his approach to the crease and the deliveries that he unleashes keep the batsmen guessing.

He is a kind of a silent operator, getting in return the desired results which he so often does.

The was exactly the reason why the Australian batsmen dismissed yesterday in the last session succumbed to the pressure exerted by the immaculate Abbas upon them.

So far only Usman Khawaja and Aaron Finch have shown skills and discipline in their innings, while the rest have still a lot to prove on a pitch of low bounce. I hope that they have learnt from the mistakes of the first innings, when fell easy prey to debutant Bilal, and at least try to get past the first session because Sarfraz Ahmed and his men won’t let let this golden opportunity to slip by.

Moreover, the last-day pitch is not going to be as friendly and docile as was the case on the first two days because there are visible signs of footmarks at both ends and when play starts today, Abbas and his fellow bowlers, to their sheer delight, would find the conditions perfect to go for the final kill.

It will be tough for the rest of the visiting batsmen to cope facing a fresh Bilal Asif and Yasir Shah, and of course Abbas, if they adopt a similar approach as they did in the first innings.

On a pitch of this nature where bounce is invariably low, driving against spinners can be hazardous as the majority of the Aussies found out in the first innings.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2018