The second Test between Pakistan and Australia, which ended in a thrilling draw in Rawalpindi on Tuesday, brought to the fore one, rather puzzling question: why is Australia so afraid to enforce the follow-on?
It looks like the decision made by Steve Waugh in Calcutta in 2001 still haunts the Australian team.
On that occasion, Australia, 274 ahead on the first innings, asked India to follow on. Thereafter, what happened is well known: Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman put on 376 for the fifth wicket and India finally waltzed out winners by 171 runs (coincidentally their own first innings score).
After that loss, Australian captains have enforced the follow-on 14 times (13 wins, one draw).
It doesn’t look like Pat Cummins will go down the route of enforcing the follow-on.
In Rawalpindi, Australia had a lead of 408 on the first innings, but still opted to go in for a second knock. One could, of course, argue that a team would like to have a rest after bowling out its opponent, but in this case, Australia wasn’t in the field for too long as it took only 53 overs to send Pakistan packing.
And Rawalpindi is far from being at its most oppressive, weather-wise, in early March.
Arguably, putting Pakistan in again, in the shell-shocked state they were in, could well have produced better results than the massive fightback they eventually produced.
In Pakistan’s second innings, after Australia had batted for just 22.3 overs, neither Mitchell Starc nor Pat Cummins looked half as threatening as they had in the first.
On the spin front, Mitch Swepson is too green to have a major impact; remember, even the late Shane Warne, a maestro, was massacred by the Indians when he appeared against them in 1992.
The final Test will be all the more tough as a result of Pakistan’s great escape. But whatever the outcome, the first series in that country for Australia, after 24 years, has already been a great success – for the game.