It is a bleak outlook for a Pakistani team used to experiencing unbridled misery in Australia over the past two decades. Another crushing defeat, in the immediate aftermath of a highly disappointing tour of New Zealand, is set to undo much of the goodwill emanating since the appointment of Mickey Arthur, who enjoyed a honeymoon start to his coaching reign.
All of this means that day four looms as pivotal for Pakistan in the fledgling stages of the Arthur era. Simply, they can’t just roll over like they did in their abysmal first innings – an unfortunate intrinsic characteristic in Pakistan’s makeup.On a pitch which has flattened out considerably, as evidenced by bat dominating the ball on day three with just two wickets falling under lights, Pakistan has an opportunity to somewhat revive their flagging confidence with a spirited collective second innings batting performance.
Few gave Pakistan much hope of offering resistance in the final session amid a forlorn situation. Some pundits even prognosticated that the Test could end during the final session, testament to most observers in Australia already entirely dismissing Pakistan’s prospects after such a shoddy start to the series.
In a welcome surprise for those yearning for a more balanced contest, Pakistan’s nuggety approach under lights was highly impressive – the first time in the Test they mustered the necessary resoluteness to succeed in these foreign conditions favouring bounce, which have long been their kryptonite.Importantly, openers Sami Aslam and Azhar Ali started relatively briskly compared to their excruciating crawl in the opening dig. Shrugging off their first innings conservatism, Aslam and Azhar played with more freedom and several flowing shots provided a necessary tonic for the team’s fragile confidence.
Mainly due to highly accurate Australian bowling, Pakistan reverted back to stonewalling as the run rate nosedived to around two runs an over. However, importantly, they lost only two wickets from 33 overs – a notable feat considering the supposed difficulty of curbing the menacing pink ball under lights.But all of that hard work will amount to naught if Pakistan meekly capitulate on day four. Pakistani cricket has continually been blighted by toxicity throughout the years; bloodletting is an unfortunate constant. One fears of another familiar spiral if things go horribly wrong on this crux tour for them.
The Arthur reign had started so positively with an encouraging performance in England during a high-octane series, one of the most entertaining affairs in recent years. The South African brought a harder edge to a mercurial Pakistan team unable to shrug schizophrenic performances.With such an eclectic bowling arsenal, Pakistan has the talent to beat anyone but, frustratingly, their talents just seemingly can never mesh not for long enough, away. They recently achieved the feat of world’s number one Test team, a momentous feat albeit fleetingly, but have barely resembled a professional outfit during a bumbling opening three days of the series.
Despite the seemingly forlorn task, where Pakistan needs to make another 420 runs or survive 180 overs, middle-order batsman Asad Shafiq believed there was a glimmer of hope. “We are hopeful of getting more partnerships here,” he said in the press conference after play. “We are taking this match step by step, hour by hour. We are aiming for good batting opportunities here.”
Shafiq admitted it had been a challenge adjusting to the new conditions and said Nathan Lyon, Australian off-spinner, was going to be a handful on day four. “We are used to UAE wickets, which are very different….turning tracks over there,” he said. “It is a good challenge and I’m really hopeful of scoring some runs in the second innings. We have to bat positively here.
“He (Lyon) bowled a good spell….the ball will turn more. There is a patch too, which helps him and he bowled really well. He gets more bounce here (compared to in the UAE). It is good competition, we look forward to facing him,” he added.
Adding to the apparent instability within the team, Shafiq is batting at No.6 even though he is more suited to first drop although the 30-year- old said he didn’t mind being relegated down the order.
“It is a collective decision from myself, the coach and captain,” he said. “It is a team requirement that I bat at six. I am happy at this position but I prefer No.3.”