WHAT do you say to a wicketkeeper who has just cost you a Test win against Australia in Australia? If you are a good diplomat, you take the blame for the defeat yourself.
Australia won the second Test against Pakistan by 36 runs in Sydney yesterday. Michael Hussey, who made a gritty 134 not out, was dropped thrice – on 27, on 45 and again on 52. Even if he had been caught the last time, that would have saved 82 runs.
In all three instances the culprit was Kamran Akmal, and the bowler to suffer was Danish Kaneria. For good measure, Akmal gifted 13 runs to tailender Peter Siddle who hung around with Hussey in a partnership of 123 for the ninth wicket – he was dropped on 25 and went on to make 38.
After Australia won the game, the Pakistan captain Mohammad Yousuf took the rap himself, saying that his dismissal – he charged down the pitch and hit a ball back to Nathan Hauritz at a million miles an hour – was the turning point as he was the most experienced player and should not have gone after the bowling in that manner when it was not needed.
Indeed, that is one question that has yet to be answered: Pakistan had about three and a half hours on day four and the whole of day five to score the 176 they needed to win. Why were they in such a blue hurry? Why was the target treated as though it was a one-day target?
In the first innings, the Pakistani openers had batted carefully, eschewing all flamboyance, and raised a partnership of 109 which, to a large extent, served as the foundation for their first innings total of 333. They added 70 runs in 33.5 overs on the first session of day two, going from 14 for no loss overnight to 84 at lunch.
In the second innings, they played with panache and gay abandon, maintained a run-rate of 5 – and were both out by the time the total reached 51.
It is easy to see how the abundance of Twenty20 cricket has made many players unable to stay at the crease for a long time. In the shortest form of the game, making 45 off 15 balls is enough. But in a Test, one must make those same 45 off 90 deliveries and stay around so that partnerships are fostered.
Pakistan has always been a nervy unpredictable side. They are something like the West Indies, which once collapsed from 156 for one to 202 when chasing 208 for victory against Australia in the World Cup of 1996.
The result of either series played this summer will, thus, not be reflective of how competitive the games were. The first game in each series wasn’t overly contested, but the others have been fought tooth and nail. We don’t yet know what will happen in Tasmania but it is a good bet that Australia will win again.