articles and blog
2009-10 Australia v Pakistan - First Test at Melbourne
Category: Cricket. Published: 30 Dec 2009
Ponting declares himself fit after being hit in the elbow in the previous Test against the West Indies in Perth. Siddle replaces McKay for the only change to Australia. Kaneria is injured and left out of the Pakistan team -- very disappointing, I was looking forward to seeing him play.
Australia won the toss, batted, and finished the day at 3/305. Not a particularly interesting day's cricket. Apart from Ponting the batting was unimpressive, although Hussey looks set for a big score. Katich and Watson put on 182 before Watson was run out. Instead of accepting his dismissal in a gentlemanly manner, Watson hung around, waiting for the umpires to tell him to go, almost begging them to let him keep batting, living up to Gayle's assessment of him as soft. Although both made 90s, neither batsman looked to be on top, with both being dropped from simple slips chances early.
First impression of Pakistan's bowlers:
- Mohammad Asif -- medium pace, line and length.
- Mohammad Aamer -- 17 years old, left arm, fast. Has potential, could be impressive if conditions suit or has some support.
- Abdur Rauf -- medium pace, line and length. Tall, but doesn't seem to use his height to advantage.
- Saeed Ajmal -- off spinner, unimpressive.
- Imran Farhat -- part time leg spinner, looked more dangerous than Ajmal.
Pakistan's fielding was very entertaining -- for all the wrong reasons. Apart from the dropped catches, their ground fielding was poor, with a number of mis-fields and mis-timed dives. Probably best summed up by a fielder attempting to remove a beach ball from the ground; a task he was unable to achieve without dropping it.
Crowd just under 60000. Cold and windy.
Very good batting by Hussey and night-watchman Hauritz. Hussey looked set for a hundred but was out for 82. Hauritz batted slowly before lunch but was obviously told to get on with it and he attacked the bowling after the break and was eventually out for 75, his highest Test score. His dismissal led to an attacking decision by Ponting to declare at 5/454. I'm sure that's the first time I've ever included the word "attacking" and a reference to Ponting's captaincy in the same sentence.
Pakistan's fielding was no better than the first day's. Aamer took a very well judged catch, but stepped over the boundary in the process, giving Hauritz a six.
Pakistan finished the day at 4/109. Batting was slow, bowling was tight but did not appear particularly threatening on an unresponsive pitch. Yousuf out on the second last ball of the day after a referral to the third umpire. Umpire Doctrove said no to an appeal for caught behind but slow-motion replays showed the ball just brushing the glove.
Technology dominated the day. Apart from the Yousuf decision, Hussey referred his dismissal, but the decision was upheld; Hauritz survived a close run-out decision early in his innings but his eventual dismissal was a result of a referral.
Crowd just under 40000. A bit warmer than the first day but still windy.
The highlight of the third day was the batting of Umar Akmal. There are similarities between the nineteen year old and a young Sachin Tendulkar -- in stature, technique and temperament. After taking 19 from a Siddle over, he brought up his 50 shortly after then got out next ball swinging at a wide delivery from Johnson (as Johnson gets most of his wickets). Hopefully Umar will learn from this; I look forward to seeing him score a lot of runs on future tours.
Pakistan all out 258. Misbah top scored with 65 not out.
Australia finished the day at 3/111. Aamer bowled impressively, taking the wickets of Ponting and Hussey and having a good battle with Watson. Ponting played a silly shot to be caught on the boundary for 12. Umar played a silly shot to get out, but he's 19 and playing his fourth Test so he can be forgiven, Ponting can't.
Crowd just under 37000. Weather warming up.
The first session belonged to Mohammad Aamer, taking the wickets of Clarke, North and Haddin, as well as troubling Watson. In the process he became, at 17 years and 257 days, the second youngest bowler, and youngest fast bowler, in history to take 5 wickets in an innings. Bowling consistently near and at times over 150kph and with the ability to swing the ball either way he's going to take a lot more wickets before he's finished. To do this at the age of 17 is scary, and he appears to have some ability with the bat as well, having hung around for over a session as night-watchman in the first innings.
After lunch Watson should have been Aamer's sixth wicket, with an easy catch put down and the resultant single allowing Watson to bring up his hundred. Despite the runs he's scored in the past few matches I'm still not convinced of his ability to consistently score runs against good bowling or on a pitch that's offering some assistance to the bowlers. His footwork is limited and shot selection can be poor. He was dropped twice in this match, several attempted pull shots fell short or wide of fielders, or he missed the ball altogether, and he took wild swings at wide deliveries that should have been left alone.
With a very slow pitch that is not giving much assistance to the bowlers, Pakistan bowled a generally defensive line with 8 fielders on the off side, making run scoring difficult. Ponting declared mid-afternoon at 8/225.
Chasing 422 to win, Pakistan finished the day at 3/170. Hauritz actually got a ball to spin, surprising Faisal Iqbal and taking his off stump. Katich bowled two overs late in the day, should have had Umar caught off his first ball and almost had him stumped on the second, once again raising the question of why Ponting is so reluctant to give him a bowl.
With Yousuf and Umar batting well, tomorrow should be an interesting day. Hopefully these two will have a big partnership and put some pressure on Australia.
Crowd of 15000.
A very disappointing finish to the game. Johnson took two wickets in the first over to virtually remove any chance Pakistan had of winning or even drawing the Test. Hauritz then cleaned up the tail to claim his first five wicket haul. Australia was always going to win but I'd been hoping for some good batting from Pakistan along the way, particularly from Umar, and was very disappointed when he got out to the fourth ball of the day.
Although the cricket was not of a generally high standard, the match at times was a contest with some entertaining battles between bat and ball.
Pakistan has a couple of very promising young players in Umar Akmal and Mohammad Aamer. But, apart from those two and the captain Mohammad Yousuf, and maybe a couple of other support players, there doesn't appear to be much chance of really pushing a top class international team. They really can't afford to lose class players such as Younis Khan and Danish Kaneria.
For Australia, although Watson made a hundred I'm not convinced he's a long term top order batsman. It should be a concern to the selectors that none of the top order are making big scores. It's not that long ago that it would be reasonable to expect several of the top order to make big hundreds, even doubles, against this sort of team. Johnson bowled as well as I've seen, Hauritz finally got five wickets but I'm not convinced of his ability to get good players out. Siddle and Bollinger bowled tightly. Again, I'm not convinced that this attack will get good teams out.
Overall, playing against weak teams hides the fact that this is not a strong Australian team.
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