Mitchell Starc had a day to remember on the fifth and final day of the Melbourne Test against Pakistan. With the bat, Starc blasted 84 off 92 balls and along with skipper Steven Smith, who smashed 165 not out, shared a 154-run stand for the seventh wicket to give Australia a 181-run lead.
With the ball, Starc produced a magnificent display of left-arm reverse swing pace bowling as he snapped up 4/36 to help Australia bowl Pakistan out for 163. This gave Australia an innings and 18-run win to take an unbeatable 2-0 lead in the three-Test series.
Mitchell Starc’s magnificent exploits with both bat and ball put him on an elite list and prolonged Pakistan’s nightmare in Australia. Misbah-ul-Haq’s team have lost 11 consecutive Tests Down Under and their wait for a series win in Australia continues.
The left-hander’s knock helped Australia create records on the final day. The left-hander blasted seven sixes, which is a record number at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Andrew Symonds held the previous mark of six sixes during the 2005 Test against South Africa. Starc’s 84 and his partnership with Smith helped Australia to 624/8 declared, their highest score against Pakistan in Tests and the highest at the MCG.
The previous highest score at the MCG was 604 against England in 1937 while their previous best against Pakistan was 617 in Faisalabad in 1980.
Starc in brilliant company
Mitchell Starc’s haul of 4/36 was a classic exhibition in reverse swing fast bowling. He cleaned up Sarfraz Ahmed for 43 and Wahab Riaz for 0. He rounded off the innings by having Yasir Shah (0) caught at mid-on.
Earlier in the day, he had Babar Azam (3) trapped LBW with a perfect inswinger with the new ball. Starc’s four wickets made him the leading wicket-taker among pace bowlers.
The Australian left-armer has had an unforgettable year with the ball. In the series against Sri Lanka in which Australia were whitewashed 3-0, Starc was the shining star as he picked up 24 wickets in three Tests at an average of 15.16.
On conditions that did not have much for the pacers, Starc shone through by striking in his first spell throughout the tour. His haul of 11/94 in Galle was his best haul in Tests. He continued his good form in the South Africa series before shining through in the first two Tests against Pakistan.
Before Starc, Stuart Broad of England was the leading wicket-taker in Tests in 2016. The Australian quick is the only pacer to take 50 wickets in the calendar year.
Pakistan’s nightmare in Australia
One glance at Pakistan’s number in Australia makes for a perfect horror story script. They have not achieved a win Down Under for 21 years. In their last three tours to Australia in 1999,2004 and 2009, the scoreline has been 3-0. With this loss in Melbourne, they are in danger of being whitewashed 3-0 for the fourth consecutive time.
Pakistan’s defeat, after scoring 443/9 declared in the first innings, rekindled their similar collapse 44 years ago at this same venue.
In 1972, Australia had made 441/5 declared but Pakistan responded with 574/8 declared. The hosts piled on the runs in the second innings as they made 425, setting Pakistan 293 for a win. However, they collapsed to 200 all out to win the match by 92 runs.
Pakistan’s worst win/loss ratio in Tests is in Australia. They have won only four Tests out of 34 and their Win-Loss percentage of 0.173 is the lowest. They have also lost 23 Tests, which is the most in a single country, going past 22 which they have lost in England.
Their four wins have come only in Melbourne (twice) and Sydney (twice) while they have failed to win Tests in Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and Hobart.
Pakistan’s recent woes are summed up by these numbers.
Since their win against West Indies in Abu Dhabi in October, they have now lost five consecutive Tests, with one to West Indies in Sharjah and two each against New Zealand and Australia.
Having started the year as No.1 in Tests, Misbah’s team have slipped to fifth in the rankings. With Misbah and Younis Khan, two senior players also in the twilight of their careers, Pakistan face a period of uncertainty in 2017.