LAHORE: There was no grandstand finish this time. The heroic resistance of the National Stadium never came at the Gaddafi Stadium for Pakistan. Once Australia removed captain Babar Azam after tea, the writing was on the wall for the hosts.
Nearly quarter of a century from when they last toured Pakistan, Australia will return home after a Test series here with the same result — a 1-0 victory — and the Benaud-Qadir Trophy to show for after they completed a 115-run triumph in the series-deciding third Test on Friday.
Chasing 351 to win, Pakistan folded for just 235 in just about an hour after tea with Nathan Lyon being the wrecker-in-chief with 5-83 and captain Pat Cummins grabbing 3-23. It was Cummins’ bold declaration on Thursday that set up the Aussies for the victory and he was naturally overjoyed with how things panned out for his side.
They had been denied a victory in the second Test in Karachi by Pakistan’s brave rearguard action which saw Babar score 196 after a drab draw in the opening game in Rawalpindi. Pakistan were in the ascendancy at the start of the final day here, needing 278 more runs to win with all their wickets intact but Australia got the reward for their positive intent throughout the series.
“Winning overseas just does not happen very often,” he told an online news conference at the end of the match. “It has been a real toil for the last 25-30 days really. And to come away with a series is hugely satisfying.”
Australia arrived on their first tour of Pakistan since 1998 on the back of a 4-0 Ashes triumph over England at home but Cummins, who became the first Australian captain since Michael Clarke in 2011 to claim a series victory in Asia, said that winning here will build the team’s confidence.
“The amount of confidence we will get out of winning over here, not just as a team but every individual showed... their game can stand up to Asian conditions,” he said. “It’s huge for [the tour of] Sri Lanka later in the year, India next year. So yeah, that’s awesome.”
Babar, whose dismissal for 55 signalled the end of Pakistan’s hopes, reckoned there was nothing wrong with his side’s planning but the “soft dismissals” eventually cost them.
“The plan was to go for the chase after tea with wickets in hand,” he told reporters during a news conference afterwards. “But the soft dismissals didn’t allow us to keep up with that plan.”
Inevitably, there were questions asked about players who failed to perform during the series despite pitches having being laid keeping Pakistan’s strengths in mind.
“We should not forget the old performances of these players and expel them from the team over just one defeat,” he argued. “We had a good series overall but just one bad session here cost us.”
Australia had last won a Test in Lahore back in 1959 and Pakistan looked poised to extend their wait when openers Imam-ul-Haq and Abdullah Shafique strode out to the pitch to resume their chase from an overnight position of 73-0.
But Abdullah went without adding to his overnight score of 27 when he was caught behind of Cameron Green and Australia sensed blood. Azhar Ali made a laborious 17 before becoming Lyon’s first victim.
Attempting a sweep, the veteran could only get an edge that kissed his pad and gave an easy catch to Steve Smith, who by then had a poor game by his fielding standards and dropped Abdullah on the penultimate delivery on Thursday.
Babar and Imam negotiated the passage of play through to lunch, the latter having earlier raised his half-century. But Imam soon departed for 70, having hit five fours in his 199-ball innings, when an inside edge off Lyon hit his pad and looped to Marnus Labuschagne at silly point.
The incoming Fawad Alam, who has fared poorly with the bat throughout the series joined Babar but he went soon after for 11 when Cummins trapped him lbw.
It brought Mohammad Rizwan to the crease. But Rizwan, whose valiant century in Karachi was also crucial in Pakistan drawing that Test, had no answer to a searing yorker by Cummins which hit his toe and was lbw for a duck.
Babar had been lucky to be there in the middle with Australia having opted not to review with replays suggesting he had gloved a catch to Smith in the slips.
But with him there, Pakistan still had hope and the skipper alongside Sajid Khan (21) took the hosts to tea without any further damage.
Resuming their chase, Babar and Sajid seemed keen to push their scoring rate. Sajid hit Mitchell Starc for back-to-back fours and Babar, who was dropped by Travis Head of Lyon, raised his half century with a four off the Australian pacer.
He followed that with his the sixth boundary of his innings off Cummins but then he was gone, as were Pakistan’s hopes.
Smith flooring Abdullah’s catch on Thursday had seemed like a pivotal moment of the Test but this time he held on to one that would prove game-defining as plucked Babar’s edge of Lyon low by his left foot.
Sajid fell in the next over, giving Starc his only success before Hasan Ali dragged Lyon onto his stumps and the wily Australian off-spinner completed his five-wicket haul with the wicket of Shaheen Shah Afridi.
It was player-of-the-match Cummins, though, who fittingly wrapped up the victory when he cleaned up Naseem Shah to spark Australia’s celebrations.
AUSTRALIA (1st Innings) 391 (U. Khawaja 91, C. Green 79, A. Carey 67, S. Smith 59; Naseem Shah 4-58, Shaheen Shah Afridi 4-79)
PAKISTAN (1st Innings) 268 (Abdullah Shafique 81, Azhar Ali 78, Babar Azam 67; P. Cummins 5-56, M. Starc 4-33)
AUSTRALIA (2nd Innings) 227-3 decl (U. Khawaja 104 not out)
PAKISTAN (2nd Innings, overnight 73-0): Abdullah Shafique c Carey b Green 27 Imam-ul-Haq c Labuschagne b Lyon 70 Azhar Ali c Smith b Lyon 17 Babar Azam c Smith b Lyon 55 Fawad Alam lbw b Cummins 11 Mohammad Rizwan lbw b Cummins 0 Sajid Khan c Khawaja b Starc 21 Nauman Ali not out 1 Hasan Ali b Lyon 13 Shaheen Shah Afridi c Swepson b Lyon 5 Naseem Shah b Cummins 1 EXTRAS (B-8, LB-4, NB-1, W-1) 14 TOTAL (all out, 92.1 overs) 235 FALL OF WICKETS: 1-77 (Shafique), 2-105 (Azhar), 3-142 (Haq), 4-165 (Alam), 5-167 (Rizwan), 6-213 (Azam), 7-213 (Sajid), 8-226 (Hasan), 9-232 (Shaheen) BOWLING: Starc 17-6-53-1; Cummins 15.1-6-23-3; Lyon 37-8-83-5; Swepson 10-0-36-0; Green 11-4-18-1 (1nb, 1w); Labuschagne 2-0-10-0
RESULT: Australia win by 115 runs. MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Pat Cummins SERIES: Australia win three-match series 1-0. MAN-OF-THE-SERIES: Usman Khawaja
Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2022