Pakistani middle murders
So at the start of the second test, when the Aussies took Pakistan's first five wickets for 163 runs by midafternoon, there was definitely an optimistic air among the visitors. But it lasted about as long as a snowman in Alice Springs, as the hosts pounded away another 614 runs before declaring their first innings over at 777 for 9.
As in the first test, Australia scrambled to barely avoid an innings defeat. Pakistan required 11 balls to score the four runs needed for another 10-wicket win, clinching the overall series.
Pakistan elected to bat first but struggled early. First, Glenn McGrath got an LBW call on Aamir Sohail, sending him away with 24. Saleem Malik replaced him and got 10 runs on three balls--before getting caught behind by Ian Healy off another McGrath delivery. Inzamam-ul-Haq replaced him but was caught by Damien Fleming off Colin Miller in the next over. In a span of 10 balls, Pakistan had gone from 40 for 0 to 57 for 3.
Mohammad Wasim was bowled by Stuart MacGill at 103, and opener Saeed Anwar was caught by Mark Taylor off Mark Waugh's delivery, ending his 69-run effort. That made it 163 for 5 with Azhar Mahmood at 20 and Wasim Akram taking the field.
They were still at it at stumps, with the score 352 for 5 and Azhar at 122. Their 223-run partnership finally ended when Azhar was caught by Taylor off MacGill for 146 and Pakistan at 386 for 6. But the hits just kept on coming.
Moin Khan came on--and never came off. Wasim finally exited at 111 when he was caught behind with the score 504 for 7. Mohammad Hussain added another 32 before being caught at 588. Up stepped Mushtaq Ahmed, who was still batting with Moin Khan when day two ended, the score now 707 for 8 with Moin at 196.
Mushtaq lasted 67 runs and worked with Moin Khan for 173 runs before getting caught--with Moin still going strong and the score 761 for 9. Two-hundred-twenty overs after it started, Pakistan declared its innings completed at 777 for 9 shortly before lunch on the third day. Khan finished 240 not out off 364 balls with 30 fours and 2 sixes.
In all, the Pakistanis had three batsmen with centuries and three partnerships in triple digits. The numbers were grim for the Aussie bowlers. Nobody retired more than two batsmen. MacGill was best of the lot at 2/111.
Now the question was whether Australia could hold on for the draw--a win seemed out of reach. To their credit, the crestfallen team put together a first innings of 469 runs. Michael Slater and Taylor led off with a 161-run first wicket partnership that ended when Taylor was caught by Azhar Mahmood off Wasim for 101. Slater went down at 68, with the score 190, but the Waugh brothers only made courtesy visits to the wicket, departing with 15 and 7. It was 217 for 4.
But Darren Lehmann and Ponting put together a strong partnership, which started late on day three and lasted 141 runs before Ponting went down LBW to Mohammad Hussain at 64. Lehmann and Healy picked it up from there, adding 68 runs before Lehmann was bowled by Mohammad Zahid, leaving with 117 runs. It was 426 for 6 at that point, but the tail went meekly, adding only 43 to the 469 total.
Still trailing by 308 runs, Australia started its second innings in the late afternoon of day four, but the openers' magic had run out, and the Pakistani bowlers were hungry the wickets after getting Taylor caught behind for 1. They collected three while yielding 94 runs by stumps, and Mark Waugh was added to the trophy case on the second over of day five, making it 99 for 4.
But, again, Lehmann and Ponting kept the faint flames going with a stand that lasted into midafternoon. Mohammad Zahid finally got the break when Lehmann was caught behind by Moin Khan at 85, ending a 156-run effort that boosted the score to 257 for 5. After Ian Healy came on, he and Ponting played close to the vest for 16 overs before Healy was caught by Saeed Anwar off Wasim Akram at 20. Fleming went for a duck, but Ponting stayed alive, crossing the century mark and knocking out the final runs to avoid an innings defeat--his 106th and final run. Inzamam-ul-Haq caught him in the next over at 309 for 8, and Australia finished all out for 311.
That left the Pakistanis with a target of four in their second innings, a task quickly executed.
Lehmann (117 & 85) and Ponting (64 & 106) were the Aussies' top men with the bat. Wasim Akram led the Pakistani bowlers with 5/60 in the second innings and was 6/140 in the match. Zahid nearly matched him with 6/165 (three wickets each innings), and Azhar Mahmood went 5/150 (3/82 in the first round).
Report by Peter Nocerini.
Saturday, 16 March 2013.