COMMENT: Pakistan’s second coming

Published October 22, 2018
Pakistan cricket team celebrates at the end of day four of the second Test match between Australia and Pakistan. — AFP
Pakistan cricket team celebrates at the end of day four of the second Test match between Australia and Pakistan. — AFP

THE second Test and in fact the short series will best be remembered for Mohammad Abbas breaking the fallacy of UAE pitches; that they assist spinners and seamers are there for the appetizers.

Or did it?

After all spinners took 41 of the 68 wickets that fell to the bowlers.

That Abbas took 17 of the 27 wickets that fell to the faster men shows that Abbas defied the laws of probability much like Steve Jobs defied everyone’s belief that nobody wanted a computer in their homes.

It was enough for Dale Steyn to tweet to the effect that he had just seen world’s No.1 bowler in the making.

Comparisons were made to McGrath and Asif and the media penetrated his modest home and family. The man had come out of nowhere to become the rock star of cricket.

Yasir who?

Yes, the man Sarfraz had pointed to before the start of the series to say he would be his attacking option was left struggling for wickets and he got mostly the tailenders after prolonged spells.

Not since a certain Donald Trump had won a presidency against Hilary Clinton and Britain voted to exit EU has there been a greater surprise.

And there were certainly no alleged Russians involved this time.

The Australians were eaten up by a bowling style they have for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Like the Indians had coined the term ‘Zaheer Ab-bas’ after the elegant stroke player had scored ton after ton against them, the Australians probably wanted to shout near the end of the series, “Mohammad Ab-bas”.

That he took his wickets this series at an average of 10.58 and a strike rate of 26.7 was astounding.

That he took them on the bare sun baked pitches was incredible.

He barely missed reaching 50 wickets in a record equaling 9th Test but with 59 wickets at 15.64 he probably has the highest number of wickets by any bowler after 10 Tests.

What is certain is that no one in the last century or this one has taken wickets at a better average.

And those that do — like Lohmann, Ferris and Barnes — did it with the help of uncovered pitches and most of them in seaming English conditions. Abbas has most of them on the parched tracks of West Indies and UAE.

It was all about controlled and precise line and length that honed in on the stumps.

He was the slowest seamer of the lot and yet took almost twice the number of wickets than the rest of the seamers combined.

Yet cricket remains a team game and there were several players who contributed to the ordeal of the Aussies.

After all it couldn’t be just because of one man that Pakistan recorded their biggest win in Test history.

It was a tragedy of errors that three Pakistani batsmen fell in the 90's.

I can’t remember another Test since the one in March 1973 that three batsmen fell in the 90's in the same game and no hundreds were scored. In that game at the National Stadium Karachi Majid Khan, Mushtaq Mohammad (run out) and England’s Dennis Amiss all fell for individual scores of 99!

The series has settled a few matters though. Babar Azam has shown that he is maturing as a Test batsman, Sarfraz that he can still lead by example and Haris Sohail that he can convert his innings into a hundred.

And that Hafeez will disappoint in the innings’ that follow after every century.

What is heartening is that Pakistan has an abundance of choices in bowling. Bilal Asif has stepped up at 33 to take 9 wickets in the two Tests but bizarrely has difficulty in taking even one in the fourth innings!

Strange for a spinner. Mir Hamza promises well though he was short of the speed and swing expected of him except for that peach of a delivery that pitched on middle and took Marsh’s off stump.

Last word remains for Fakhar Zaman, the man with a technique and temperament that was allegedly considered unsuited to the five day format.

He nevertheless impressed with a disposition that stood in the face of Australia once they had Pakistan down to 57-5, four wickets gobbled up by Lyons for no run in the space of six balls.

But just as Pakistan had recovered from 26-6 at Kolkata in 1999 and then beat India in the Test and likewise a few years later at Karachi from 0-3 (Irfan Pathan’s hat-trick in the first over of the Test) and 39-6 to beat India again by 341 runs, Pakistan rose from absolute gloom to win by the largest margin in their Test history.

That alone commands respect and shut out the disappointment of not winning the first Test.

It was indeed Pakistan’s second coming, in more ways than one.

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2018

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