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PAK Vs AUS: Australia End Asian Horror Story With Historic Series Win In Pakistan

Dramatic win in Lahore gave Australia their first Test series win in Pakistan after 24 years. They claimed the series 1-0.

Australian players pose with the trophy after winning the third Test against Pakistan in Lahore.
Australian players pose with the trophy after winning the third Test against Pakistan in Lahore. AP Photo

Coming into the three-match series against Pakistan, Australia were among the worst-performing Test nations in Asia. (More Cricket News)

Since clinching their last Test series in Asia in September 2011, when they defeated Sri Lanka 1-0 in a three-match series, Australia had won only two out of 17 matches in this part of the world. They lost 13 games during this period. Their win-loss ratio of 0.153 was the second-worst behind only Ireland (who have played only one match in Asia).

However, Pat Cummins and Co brought the curtain down on Australia’s decade-long Asian horror story with a resounding 115-run victory over Pakistan in the last session of the fifth day of the third and final Test in Lahore on Friday. It was also Australia’s first Test series win in Pakistan after nearly 24 years.

CLIMACTIC FINISH

Despite the buzz surrounding Australia’s first tour of Pakistan after more than two decades, the series had witnessed a vapid contest on most days until the fourth day of the third Test when Cummins came up with a bold declaration post tea, setting the hosts a target of 351 in 121 overs.

The previous two Tests were run feasts with batsmen from both sides making merry on pitches that had not much for bowlers. Out of 10 days of cricket, there was only one session when the ball dominated the bat, with Australia skittling out Pakistan for 148 in the first innings of the second Test.

Team Matches Won Lost Tied Draw W/L Ratio
India 56 42 5 0 9 8.400
Pakistan 48 26 12 0 10 2.166
Sri Lanka 60 26 21 0 13 1.238
Afghanistan 6 3 3 0 1 1.000
England 28 10 15 0 3 0.666
West Indies 27 7 14 0 2 0.500
New Zealand 19 5 10 0 5 0.500
Bangladesh 44 10 23 0 11 0.434
Zimbabwe 9 2 7 0 0 0.285
South Africa 17 2 11 0 4 0.181
Australia 17 2 13 0 2 0.153
Ireland 1 0 1 0 0 0.000

Table: Test records of teams in Asia between 21 September 2011 (a day after Australia’s last Test series win in Asia) and 3 March 2022 (a day before the start of the Pakistan-Australian Test series).

When the hosts began at 73 for no loss on the 15th and final day of the series, there was another possibility of a draw as Pakistan had batted one full day in Karachi to save the match. The game, though, came alive when Cameron Green made the first breakthrough by forcing Abdullah Shafique to nick an away going delivery to wicketkeeper Alex Carey.

Nathan Lyon, who has often drawn flak for not being able to bowl Australia to win on a fifth-day pitch, then got rid of experienced Azhar Ali and in-form Imam-Ul-Haq on either side of lunch break before skipper Cummins trapped out-of-form Fawad Alam and stumper Mohammad Rizwan in front to break the back of Pakistan’s batting.

Though captain Babar Azam resisted with a defiant half-century before edging one to Steve Smith at first slip off Lyon, Pakistan’s innings folded within an hour after tea, with Cummins fittingly taking the last wicket. Lyon finished with a five-wicket haul and completed his redemption.

KHAWAJA-CUMMINS SHOW

Though everyone contributed to Australia’s memorable series win, two players, who stood out for the visitors, were opener Usman Khawaja and captain Cummins.

Usman Khawaja, who made a comeback to Australia’s Test team after a two-year hiatus during the Ashes in January, has not looked back since then. Against Pakistan, he was unstoppable and batted with a consistency displayed by only Don Bradman in his career. In five innings of three Tests, he amassed 496 runs at an astronomical average of 165.33.

Skipper Pat Cummins, on the other hand, led from the front. It was only his second series as a full-time captain, but the maturity and the intelligence he showed on the field were exemplary. He was relentless with the ball and, in the company of Mitchell Starc, turned the game on its head on the third day of the third Test.

Cummins (5/56) and Starc (4/33) shared nine wickets between them as Pakistan lost their last seven wickets for 20 runs to get bowled out for 268 and concede a massive lead of 123 runs in their first innings. The spell swung the match and series decisively Australia’s way.

More than his heroics with the ball, the series would be remembered for Cummins’ brave declaration on the fourth day. He had every reason to play it safe and not risk a defeat, considering some of the recent instances of rival teams chasing down 300-plus totals against Australia.

Cummins was part of the Australian team that lost to India at the Gabba in 2021 and England in Headingly in 2019. Australia were the favourites going into the fourth innings only to suffer heartbreaking defeats on both occasions. In Headingly, they were blown away by Ben Stokes’ breathtaking assault while Rishabh Pant’s pyrotechnics left them shellshocked in Brisbane. Pakistan too denied them a win in the last Test and batted 171.4 overs to finish with 443 for 7 in their fourth innings.

Cummins, though, cared little for precedents and made a decision that has to be termed a masterstroke in hindsight. With his bowling attack vindicating his decision, the proverb ‘fortune favours the bold’ never made more sense.

DEJA VU FOR PAKISTAN

For Pakistan, the defeat was a deja vu of the 1998-99 series when Mark Taylor’s team had registered a victory with a similar 1-0 scoreline.

Despite the loss, Pakistan can take many positives from these three matches. In Imam-ul-Haq and Abdullah Shafique, they seem to have found two steady openers while skipper Babar Azam’s reputation as a red-ball player has grown by leaps and bounds following his marathon 425-ball 196 in Karachi.

The hosts will also be buoyed by the progress of speedster Naseem Shah who put on a stellar exhibition of reverse swing in Lahore. Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem can form a potent new-ball pair for Pakistan in years to come.

Above all, Pakistan can take pride in hosting Australia without any hiccups after 24 years. It may go a long way in re-establishing Pakistan as a safe zone for international cricket.  

(Ankit Kumar Singh is a journalist-turned-media academician. Views are personal)

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