Australia has a mountain to climb to stand any chance of winning the first Test in Rawalpindi.
Pakistan remains in complete control after day two on Saturday, declaring at 4-476 before Australia reached stumps at 0-5.
These are the Talking Points after day two of the first Test.
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‘YOU’RE GOING TO BE LATE’: Shane Warne’s final moments revealed as foul play ruled out
MOMENT OF MAGIC WOULD HAVE MADE WARNE PROUD
Turning out to play on Saturday couldn’t have been easy.
It might have been the last thing some of the Australians wanted to do with the tragic, sudden loss of Shane Warne weighing heavily.
The players wore black armbands and a minute’s silence was observed before play — but the show had to go on.
What followed was akin to torture for Australia.
Pakistan batted Australia deeper and deeper into the ground. The wicket was lifeless. Chances few and far between.
Cricket commentator and writer Geoff Lemon said given the match circumstances, combined with the emotional toll of Warne’s loss, it was Australia’s toughest day in the field since the ill-fated 2018 tour of South Africa.
“(I) reckon Australia’s facing their toughest day on the field since day three at Jo’burg in 2018,” he tweeted as Azhar Ali and Imam-ul-Haq resumed their unbreakable stand.
“Emotional, shaken, approaching 300 for one wicket on a deck as flat as they come.”
The easier thing to do would have been to drop heads in the field, but one stunning moment proved that that was never an option.
It was a moment Warne would have been proud of.
After 150 overs in the field, and with Pakistan at 2-414, Babar Azam tried to take a run on the arm of Marnus Labuschagne, who sharply collected the ball with one hand and threw down the stumps at the non-striker’s end with little more than a stump to aim at.
He went wild in celebration, fist pumping and shouting, and rallying his troops in a way few teams who have conceded more than 400 runs for three wickets ever have.
Of course, Warne could never move across the ground like Labuschagne.
But there was something in the never-say-die attitude, and the ability to produce a moment of sheer individual brilliance when his team needed it most, that was reminiscent of the late great.
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THE FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY FOR AUSSIES
It felt like it would never come, but it’s finally Australia’s turn to bat.
A miracle aside, the best Australia can hope for in this Test is a draw which, given the monumental benefit of winning the toss in Rawalpindi, would be a fine result.
But Australia batting its way to a draw with a similar ease to what we’ve seen from the Pakistan top order shouldn’t be considered a foregone conclusion.
While there’s been little assistance to the bowlers, this isn’t a wicket that’s allowed batters to get up and running quickly either.
As noted by former Pakistan international Bazid Khan in commentary, a big feature of Australia’s batting line-up compared to the host’s is that it’s more aggressive.
Imam-ul-Haq and Azhar Ali happily batted time on days one and two, demonstrating an unwavering patience that ultimately brought them results.
They needed to, with the ball not coming onto the bat in a way that would make fast-scoring possible, and could make an aggressive approach early problematic.
Khan said that Australia now faces a major challenge to replicate Pakistan’s style, which is foreign to the likes of the David Warner and Travis Head.
“What we’ve seen so far is each player has given themselves time,” Khan said. “It’s difficult really to strike the ball, sort of waiting for it, building that innings slowly.
“I think the challenge for Australia will be to build the innings that way.
“Marnus (Labuschagne), Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja are the type of players who bat time and make sure that they’re in … the other Australian batters like to get on with it.
“I don’t think the pitch will allow you to be aggressive in that manner. The ball is not necessarily jumping onto the bat to be able to hit through the line or hit boundaries for fun.”
The main discussion on day one centred around Australia’s selections and the decision to not partner another specialist spinner with Nathan Lyon.
With three part-timers bowling spin alongside Lyon — including Travis Head inside the first 20 overs — while Cameron Green only bowled five overs, questions needed to be asked.
Interim Australia coach Andrew McDonald called for patience, telling reporters after play not to judge the selections until the end of the Test.
It was a fair point from McDonald, because this could well be the right XI for Australia.
Outside of the opening stages of day one, when there was still moisture on the wicket, the pitch hasn’t been overly kind to the spinners. Lyon hasn’t looked particularly dangerous, while none of Australia’s part-timers have been either until Labuschagne ripped a few deliveries late on day two.
Instead, reverse swing became a growing feature on day two. As such, Australia wanted more pace — and its selections meant Pat Cummins had plenty of places to turn.
Former Australia opener Simon Katich backed the selections before play, saying it would have been a big risk to pick another spinner, noting that Mitchell Swepson is yet to debut.
“I actually agree with the team they picked,” Katich said in commentary. “I didn’t see it being the wrong balance.
“I think they looked at all numbers here and realised that spin has a part to play, but the quicks have a better record at this venue. So I don’t know it would make a huge difference, especially if young Mitchell Swepson was on debut.
“That’s no disrespect to him, I think he’s a good young spin bowler who’s done well in the Sheffield Shield … but I just think with this surface there’s not a huge amount here for the spinners, except for the first bit of play when there was moisture on top.
“Yes, it might spin later in the Test match, but I think because Pakistan won the toss the balance of their team looks fantastic because they have runs on the board.”
There are still three days to play and should the pitch break up, this debate could come back into sharp focus once more.
But for the time being, the heat is off the selectors with spin clearly not the answer for the vast majority of play so far.
WICKET A MASSIVE LET-DOWN
For nearly 24 years did Australia wait to tour Pakistan again, while the nation hadn’t been on the road for any Test in nearly three years.
As such, Australia’s arrival in Pakistan for this tour was not only eagerly-anticipated, but considered a massive win for world cricket.
This is especially so after both England and New Zealand pulled out of high-profile tours of the nation in recent years due to security fears.
Sold out crowds for all five days of the first Test and the raucous atmosphere inside Pindi Cricket Stadium tell you just how big the occasion is.
It’s just a shame the cricket itself hasn’t matched it.
Some brief periods have been absorbing, but the vast majority has been dull with the conditions so heavily stacked in favour of the batters.
The lifeless MCG wicket was torn to shreds before a major overhaul in recent times. It may as well have been a green seamer when compared to Rawalpindi.
This has been one of the most brutal grinds you can imagine for Australia’s bowlers, who have had virtually no seam, or swing assistance, while the wicket hasn’t spun outside the early overs of day one.
All that Australia’s bowlers could do was smack the wicket hard and make the Pakistanis play, hoping for a mistake until reverse swing became more of a threat.
Reverse swing started to become a feature halfway through day two, and Pat Cummins took a wicket, but not before Australia was already effectively batted out of the match.
There could be some life in the wicket yet should it start to break up late, but after two days, it’s been a disappointment that has let down the occasion.