Sydney seems to be Australia’s lucky ground, for they win games from impossible situations there. Their latest win over Pakistan was stunning, especially after they conceded a 200-plus run lead.
That Pakistan got the lead in the first place was surprising considering the top-order collapse. After the openers had given them a good start, all that was needed was for the rest to bat normally and get a big lead.
Even in the second innings, the top-order, barring Salman Butt, looked as if it had only a few overs to get to the winning target. All the wonderful effort of the bowlers was nullified by careless batting and a wonderful opportunity to win in Australia after 1996 was lost.
If Pakistan had won, then, who knows, what sort of pressure the Australians would have found themselves under in the third and final Test. There will be some who will blame Yousuf’s defensive field placing on the fourth morning for the loss. But the blame lies with the batsmen. If the selectors don’t take action against those who squandered a golden chance then Pakistan will keep wasting such opportunities.
A lot of players in the team are there because of past reputations and if a team has to lose, it’s better to do so with a young team. What teams can learn from Australia is how number 10, Peter Siddle, batted with determination to add more than 100 runs with Michael Hussey.
Siddle is not the first Aussie tail-ender to stick around with a recognised batsman.
Steve Waugh used to get to his centuries with the tail for company, and his immense confidence would rub off on the tail-ender.
Some Indian bowlers seem to have learnt this and it’s a refreshing sight to see the likes of Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan hanging around and making the bowlers earn their scalps, though the feisty Sardar does sometimes attempt shots beyond his ability and gets dismissed. In Umar Akmal, Pakistan have found a top batsman in the making and the confidence he shows tackling all kinds of bowling on all kinds of pitches is amazing.
Ricky Ponting got a lot of stick for his decision to bat first on an unusually grassy Sydney pitch but he believed in his team. He may not look like a cerebral skipper but he has some special qualities, which make his team support him. He has become the most successful Test skipper and congratulations to him.
Congrats also to the Australian selectors for keeping faith in Mike Hussey. Hussey may have been lucky, with Kamran Akmal dropping him thrice but he crafted a century that will rate among his finest efforts — and certainly the most satisfying.
Australia are making a strong bid to regain the number one ranking in Test cricket and don’t be surprised if they achieve it soon.