It was a frustrating day for Pakistan players and fans alike as their bowling attack was dismissively swatted aside by Australia on day two of their first Test at the Gabba.
Azhar Ali’s men were unable to claim a wicket till the 61st over when Joe Burns was desperately unlucky to be bowled around his legs for 97. By that time, Pakistan’s first innings lead had been reduced to just 18 and there seems to be more misery in store for the Men in Green going into day three after the hosts ended with a 72-run lead at stumps with nine wickets still intact after ending on 312-1 in response to Pakistan’s 240 all out.
Here are three of the talking points from day two:
1. David Warner sends a message: It had to happen, didn’t it? Warner had a nightmare Ashes series after returning from his one-year suspension but that just made him angrier and even more determined to prove himself.
The left-hander has made 438 runs across all formats and has been dismissed just once so far in the seven matches he has played since the Ashes. His T20I century against Sri Lanka was the first of his career, while his ton against Pakistan was his first in over two years.
The left-hander’s naturally aggressive style of play means he is doubly dangerous if he stays out there in the middle for long; his ability to take the game away from the opposition in a single session is almost unparalleled in Test cricket at the moment.
He may have rode his luck a couple of times, getting caught behind off Naseem Shah off a no-ball before Imran Khan clipped his stumps without dislodging the bails but those came at either ends of a day that belonged completely to Warner.
2. Decision to bench Mohammad Abbas comes back to haunt Pakistan: The right-arm medium pacer only made his debut two years ago but his record-breaking performances have meant he had become a permanent fixture of the Test side.
Yet the pacer was dropped for this game as Pakistan went with a three-pronged pace attack that included two teenagers and a pacer that hadn’t played a Test since January 2017.
Drop a bowler with an average of 18.86 and an economy of 2.46 had seemed questionable to begin with but it seems downright foolish in hindsight.
Imran Khan’s five-wicket haul in the warm-up would have tempted coach Misbah-ul-Haq and skipper Azhar Ali to include the pacer but the decision to hand 16-year-old Naseem Shah seems more of a publicity stunt than one based on cricketing merit.
The decision seems even more foolish considering Abbas’s record against Australia. The pacer has claimed 17 wickets in two matches against the Kangaroos in the UAE, including five-wicket hauls of in both innings of the last game he played against them in Abu Dhabi. For comparison’s sake, Imran has seven wickets in four matches at an average of nearly 50 against Australia while the other two had never faced the cricketing giants before.
3. Gabba remains Australia’s ultimate fortress: Few teams have managed to perfect the art of being overwhelming favourites like Australia have, ruthlessly and efficiently picking apart their opponents while not letting expectations weigh them down.
Brisbane’s Gabba has not been breached in over three decades and Australia seem to be perfectly at home — pun intended — with the unique pressure of being expected to win.
It didn’t take long for them to take the game away from Pakistan and realistically it is about damage limitation for the visitors from here on in, despite more than half of the Test still remaining.
The Men in Green would do well to avoid a morale-seeping innings defeat from here on in.