Australia notches up the maximum 120 points for 2 test series for World test championships by beating Pakistan in both tests at Brisbane and Adelaide by huge innings margins. Starting at 96/6 on 3rd afternoon , Pakistan to their credit showed great resilience with both promising Babar Azam and gritty leg spinner Yasir Shah stitching a long partnership to frustrate the potent Aussie bowling attack on a benign pitch with no help to the bowlers in daylight. Babar played some majestic strokes as he was nearing his 2nd back to back 100 but was removed by an impressive Mitch Starc at 97. However ,the determined Yasir Shah had other ideas and thriving on some terrible Australian catching, the spirited cricketer known more for his bowling, put the Australian attack to the sword and scored an unexpected hundred while getting great support from fast bowler Mohammed Abbas (29). Yasir was last out for 113 as Pakistan made 302. Mitch Starc was the peak of the Australian bowlers with 6/64 and seemed to have got back his zip which had deserted him for much of 2019. With a big 287 run lead and another prospect of bowling in evening light, Tim Paine decided to enforce the follow on which seemed to have become old fashioned these days.
The tourists were rocked early in 2nd innings losing Imam and skipper Azhar Ali with Starc and Hazlewood looking ominous before rains halted play much to the relief of Pakistan. However ,the game soon restarted but was interrupted again by fresh rains– enough time for Pakistan to lose Babar Azam, caught behind off his historic tormentor, Jos Hazlewood , leaving Pakistan tottering at 39/3 at the end of 3rd day.
Day 4 afternoon saw Aussies struggle again to get wickets on a docile pitch offering no help for the bowlers. Both Asad Shafiq (54) and impressive Shaan Masood (68) played with resilience with the later playing aggressive strokes including , some quality pull shots. However Masood , playing in the air to Lyon once too often spooned a simple catch to Starc and soon Australia were all over their opponents. The luckless Lyon finally got some rewards for his persistence, getting Shafiq to a leg side trap and got Iftikhar caught at short leg. Impressive Rizwan (45) played a fine knock but only delayed the inevitable as the Aussies won by an innings and 48 runs to sweep the series 2-0 , with Nathan Lyon finally getting some rewards for his persistence and hard work with 5/69 in 2nd innings.
Australia had it unexpectedly easy in this series. It was widely thought in all pre series previews ,that Pakistan ,though were the underdogs, will challenge Australia. However the inexperience of Pakistan bowling attack and the lack of timely resistance from Pakistan top order against the Aussie quicks costed the visitors dear. There were some very impressive knocks by few of the Pakistan batters but that match defining innings did not materialise . Skipper Azhar Ali’s failure (62 runs in the series) hit Pakistan hard. Though Asad Shafiq , Shaan Masood and the talented keeper batsman Rizwan played their share of impressive knocks, they were not enough to stretch Australia in a big way . Babar Azam (210 runs at 52.50 avg ) looked a class player in this series but he needed to convert his impressive scores to match defining ones. One hopes to see a lot of his talent in the years to come as he is a high quality batsman. The bowling looked less threatening than expected mainly as their bowlers were inexperienced. They actually did very well in the warm up game leading up to the test series skittling out a potentially good Australia A batting lineup cheaply but performing in test cricket against established stars is a different ball game. Sixteen year old Naseem Shah looked impressive in first test and should have played at Adelaide . Musa, Imran and Abbas struggled and only Shaheen Afridi looked impressive . However there was big expectation that they will fire under lights in the pink ball test but nothing of that sort happened. Leg spinner Yasir Shah will remember this series more as a batsman (196 runs at 49 avg).
For Australia, ” Man of the series ” David Warner (489 runs at 489 average) and Marnus Labuschagne (347 runs at 173.5 avg) with their two marathon partnerships in the series ensured that none of their other batters get much over worked and enabled Steve Smith (40 runs at 20 avg) to have a holiday of sorts . Warner ,in this series was all concentration and power as he scored two brilliant hundreds .He hardly gave anything away and showed his indispensability ,specially at home. Labuschagne, is a fast improving cricketer and has made himself indispensable at the number 3 spot since his ashes displays. His ability to score quickly and play long innings, is what Australia needs at number 3 and surely he is the biggest gain for Australia in 2019. Joe Burns had a good first test as opener ,missing out on a hundred and should capitalise on his new start. The bowling looked in good shape and the best news is that Starc with 14 wickets for the series is back , close to his best ,with his yorkers and pace getting back its venom. Hazlewood has looked incisive and Cummins looked good in some of his spells. Nathan Lyon struggled till his fifer in the last innings.
Australia has looked good with two back to back innings wins but will have to face sterner challenge from their next opponents, New Zealand in their forthcoming test series at home and other day / night test to follow at Perth .
As for Pakistan, massive improvements required in all 3 departments batting, bowling and fielding. Their bowling will improve with more experience .The batting needs some match defining scores and their batters need to put higher price on their wickets. Talent is there in abundance , more resilience is the call of the hour.