Pakistan’s Test Cricket Team Once Again Disappoints In Australia – Forbes

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During rain delays of a one-sided, laborious second Test, there was a reminder of a time when the contest between Australia and Pakistan captivated the public Down Under.

As the heavens opened in Adelaide, Australian cable channel Fox Cricket tapped back into the archives to find a classic. Hobart 1999 – cricket fans don’t need an introduction to this all-timer.

The part I tuned into – and subsequently was instantly glued to – was when Pakistan ran through Australia’s powerful batting order in the first innings through a lethal concoction of Waqar Younis swing and Saqlain Mushtaq spin.

It was mesmerizing stuff and a reminder of Pakistan’s innate knack of magnetism. When they are rolling, there are few more breathtaking sights in cricket.

Of course, ever mercurial, Pakistan ended up losing the Test after being steamrolled by Adam Gilchrist and Justin Langer during that unforgettable final day and they have barely been competitive in Australia ever since.

It’s too bad. A whole generation of Australian cricket fans have not been able to experience Pakistan at their most beguiling and brilliant. Instead, they get the bad old Pakistan who barely musters up a fight.

Since winning in Sydney in November 1995, Pakistan have lost 14 straight Tests in Australia. Other than Hobart, they really only truly competed in Sydney 2010 – a Test shrouded in mystery. On their last tour three years ago, Pakistan at least almost hijacked the first Test in Brisbane out of nowhere with some cavalier batting in the fourth innings even though chasing down Test cricket’s biggest total never really seemed likely.

Being old enough to remember the halcyon days of Pakistani cricket – my earliest memories of the sport was Pakistan’s rousing World Cup triumph in 1992 – I lamented Pakistan seemingly being shunned of an invite to tour Australia.

From January 2005 until December 2016, Pakistan played a measly three Tests in Australia compared to 12 Tests from cash cow India during that same period. After Pakistan put up basically a no-show on this latest ill-fated tour, thankfully this series was only a two-match affair – not the traditional three.

Even the great Pakistan teams of yesteryear had never been able to crack Australia’s home fortress, but things have increasingly spiraled the past two decades. During this already forgettable series, you knew things were dire when Pakistan’s lower-order merely showing some backbone received healthy applause. That’s how low the bar had been set.

But it amounted to naught. When it really mattered, when the heat was on, Pakistan were pitiful and deservedly lost both matches by an innings.

So renowned for producing wondrous pacemen – re-watching Waqar’s pearler to dismiss a young Ricky Ponting in Hobart brought a lump to the throat – Pakistan’s stocks are bare right now. Sixteen-year-old sensation Naseem Shah was a rare silver lining after dishing out some hostile bowling in his Test debut at the Gabba.

Strangely, Pakistan did not select him in Adelaide and their attack was lifeless against David Warner, who smashed the 10th highest score in Test history. Pakistan’s decision to pick 19-year-old Muhammad Musa, who on debut took 0-114 from 20 overs, spectacularly backfired and seemed to indicate the brains trust was using this series as experimentation. Like they came in with a defeatist attitude.

The abysmal showing led Ponting – who faced a star-studded Pakistan attack two decades ago also featuring Wasim Akram and speedster Shoaib Akhtar – to declare Pakistan’s bowlers a collective dud.

“They (Pakistan’s bowlers) have been poor … their bowling attack is terrible really for a Test attack,” Ponting told cricket.com.au. “I’m not sure I have seen a worse bowling attack on our shores in a long time.

“They haven’t got much cattle.”

For the first time in a long time – maybe ever – Pakistan have been totally upstaged by foe India in the pace bowling department. Traditionally, India have struggled finding world-class quicks unlike Pakistan who seemingly had a rotating line of precocious pacemen.

Not anymore.

Pakistan’s batting looks marginally healthier although their top-order barely fired a shot bar Babar Azam, who lived up to top billing with a couple of brilliant knocks against the odds. The 25-year-old averages a relatively modest 37 in Tests but is a devastating limited-overs batsman with averages over 50 in both shorter formats.

Babar has been often compared to India talisman Virat Kohli – a comparison that will almost certainly fall short for anyone. There has been a lot of pressure on Babar who often hasn’t been able to handle the heat in cricket’s toughest and longest format.

But his healthy mix of counterattack and stout defense greatly impressed against Australia’s blue chip attack and it could well prove the springboard for Babar to take his game to another level. For sub-continent players, batting in the punishing conditions of Australia is often a barometer for them but, if they succeed, it can do wonders for confidence.

Kohli, himself, was somewhat an underachiever when he arrived in Australia ahead of India’s 2014-15 tour. The then 26-year-old averaged under 40 in Tests but cracked four centuries in a series for the ages to win his engrossing battle with Australian enforcer Mitchell Johnson, who just 12 months earlier destroyed England and South Africa’s collective will with the most brutal bowling imaginable.

Five years on, the masterful Kohli averages 55. Babar, similarly, could well have a spike after passing a significant career litmus test. If he does, Pakistan genuinely have a megawatt star to build around – something they desperately need. Pakistan requires some glue to hold this fragile team together.

If they need inspiration, Pakistan might just have the requisite upcoming tonic. The strife-torn nation will play Test cricket at home for the first time in a decade when they host Sri Lanka later this month.

Inspired by their passionate fans, Pakistan might well momentarily rise from this current slumber.

Fingers crossed.

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