It was Australia’s turn to pile on the pain in the first Test on Sunday with the tourists returning fire with the bat after two brutal days in the field.
In response to Pakistan’s 4-476d, Australia reached stumps at 2-271 to all but ensure it will avoid defeat in the series-opener.
These are the Talking Points from day three of the first Test in Rawalpindi.
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SELECTION HEAT TURNS TO PAKISTAN
As Australia took just four wickets in 162 overs across the first two days, the focus was on whether the tourists picked the right XI.
But with Pakistan experiencing its own issues, the focus has shifted.
Australia went pace heavy with three specialist quicks plus Cameron Green to give the tourists four fast bowling options.
But Pakistan is now trying to get by with only two; Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah.
It left Pakistan bowling 45 overs of spin out of 73 for the day, with Afridi and Shah only effective in short spells.
It’s proving problematic for Pakistan, particularly given Shah is inexperienced at just 19 years of age, and is expensive due to his attacking style.
“I’m never a fan of two pacers in the XI,” said former Pakistan player Bazid Khan in commentary.
“One of them is Naseem Shah who’s very young and he’s the type of bowler who will leak runs because he’s going to attack the batsmen, but he’s also quite inexperienced.
“So to have Naseem Shah and Shaheen Shah Afridi as your two fast bowlers, Shaheen might give you a bit of control, Naseem Shah isn’t going to give you control. It is a problem.”
Pakistan’s hands have somewhat been tied — Haris Rauf likely would have played had he not contracted Covid just before the first Test, while Hasan Ali was also unavailable.
It left only 20-year-old Mohammad Wasim — who hasn’t played a Test — as Pakistan’s other available quick in the squad.
Nonetheless, Khan said that Pakistan made a mistake in leaving seamer Mohammad Abbas in the reserves.
“I’m just leaning towards if you’re going to play Naseem Shah, you have to get Abbas in because he bowls control,” Khan said.
Pakistan legend Waqar Younis said he’s also “never been a big fan” of playing just two fast bowlers.
“You always have to have three in the side, just someone to break down (the opponent)…” he said.
Former Australian batter and commentator Mike Haysman was quick to sink the boot into Usman Khawaja after the opener was dismissed for 97.
“Why, oh why did he play that shot on 97?” asked Haysman, who was stunned that Khawaja attempted a reverse sweep to reach three figures.
“I have no idea what he was thinking,” he added.
Cricket’s relationship with the reverse sweep has always been a little awkward.
It’s widely celebrated when it is executed well, but becomes an easy target when it doesn’t.
When Khawaja was one shot away from a fairy tale century in the country of his birth, it did not come off.
It flicked off Khawaja’s glove and was caught at short leg to stop him just three runs short of his third century in five innings.
Whether his shot selection was to blame depends on where you to stand on the spectrum of batting philosophy.
Traditionalists will hate it, but it’s worth mentioning that Khawaja is arguably the best reverse sweeper in Australia who has the shot down to a fine art.
Khan noted in commentary that it has served him perfectly well in the past in similar situations.
“That match-saving hundred he got in Dubai in the last series when they toured, and it was Yasir Shah who was bowling well, it was Khawaja who just reversed everything,” he said.
“Yes, he got out and yes, you do run risk of getting out with any shot, but it is his shot.”
Simon Katich also defended Khawaja, saying there is a double standard when judging the reverse sweep, among other shots.
“I’ve always been a big believer that if you stop playing that shot purely because you got out to it, you’re forgetting about the fact that it scored you a lot of runs and put pressure back on the opposition,” Katich said.
“We don’t ever talk about when someone gets out driving the ball. It’s generally off a short ball or something like a reverse sweep.”
WARNER’S FREAK BRADMAN-LIKE RECORD
David Warner sure does love playing against Pakistan.
If it wasn’t clear on the scoreboard, it certainly was in the way he laughed in the face of a fiery Naseem Shah, who was walking down the pitch trying to intimidate him.
Warner has the wood on Pakistan, including Shah who thought he had the opener as his first Test wicket three years ago but it was a no ball.
On Sunday, Warner survived a handful of nervy moments within the first few overs with Shaheen Shah Afridi asking plenty of questions outside off stump with his unnerving pace.
But Warner settled in and his innings started to follow a familiar script against easily his favourite team in Test cricket.
A skidding delivery from Sajid Khan ultimately bowled Warner for 68, but he still averages 104.72 in eight Tests against Pakistan.
His most recent scores against the country are now 68, 335*, 154, 55, 113 and 144.
According to statistician Swamp, that run is Bradmanesque.
Only Sir Donald Bradman has scored more runs against one opponent in a run of six Test innings.
SMITH’S BIG CHANCE TO RISE
Steve Smith will hardly get a better opportunity to return to form with a big score than he will on Monday.
The right-hander is yet to reach anywhere near his lofty heights of 2019, having made just one century since September 2019.
Monday will mark 14 months since Smith’s last three figure score, but he now has a golden chance to snap the streak.
Rawalpindi has proven to be a batter’s paradise. Even by the end of day three there were no obvious gremlins and the pitch is yet to start turning sideways for the spinners.
It leaves Smith returning to the crease on 24 off 55 balls with all the time in the world ahead of him, and little pressure.
Australia is in a strong position to force a draw in the first Test, while any chance to up the ante in an attempt to set a total for Pakistan to chase is unlikely after 21 overs were lost on Sunday.
All that’s left for Smith to do is get his head down and enjoy some time at the crease.