Pakistan brought plenty of fight on the penultimate day of the Brisbane clash against Australia, though it ultimately still wasn’t enough to avert a 13th straight Test loss Down Under.
Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan impressed greatly with the willow in hand but Pakistan’s first-innings deficit of 340 proved to be a challenge too far as Australia wrapped up the win late in the day.
In the end, the hosts triumphed by an innings and five runs to maintain their formidable record of not losing a single Test at the Gabba since 1988. While it is the Aussies who have raced away to a 1-0 lead in the two-match series, the laudable resistance offered by Babar and Rizwan deserves a mention in our talking points from the fourth day’s play.
Babar shows his Test chops
A lot was riding on the shoulders of Babar Azam if Pakistan were to make a fist of it, and the batting prodigy answered the call with what is arguably his best Test innings yet.
Having thrown his wicket away for just one run to a loose drive in the first innings, the right-hander made amends in some style with an authoritative batting display at the Gabba.
Despite Pakistan losing two wickets in quick succession in Sunday’s morning session, Babar was unperturbed and a picture of calm as he built on the start he had generated on Day Three.
The 25-year-old partnered with Mohammad Rizwan to take the fight to Australia with his wristy cut shots and flourishing cover drives drawing plenty of applause from the sparse Pakistan contingent in the stands.
His patience and perseverance at the crease were duly rewarded with only the second Test ton of his career and the exuberant celebrations that followed showed how much it really meant to Babar.
Unfortunately for the Pakistan man, he couldn’t quite kick-on from the century and perished soon after to an attempted cut shot off Nathan Lyon. While he did prove that he has the mentality and the chops for Test cricket, converting those hundreds into bigger ones will have to be the next step in Babar’s Test evolution.
Record-breaking Rizwan agonisingly misses out on ton
While Babar unleashed a flurry of exquisite shots in his 104-run knock, Rizwan looked equally good, if not better, at the other end. Making only his second Test appearance and the first in over three years, the Pakistan wicketkeeper-batsman gave an excellent account of his credentials with a punchy innings.
Not afraid to take the game to the Aussie bowlers, Rizwan followed up his promising first innings showing with an even better one on Day Four. The 27-year-old had flopped badly in his recent T20I and ODI showings for Pakistan but he showed why Pakistan were right to drop Sarfraz Ahmed for him in a classy knock that was deserving of a century.
Unfortunately for Rizwan, his innings was cut short on 95 after he upper cutted a wide Josh Hazlewood delivery straight into the hands of Lyon at deep point. While he will be disappointed to have missed out on a maiden ton, Rizwan can take comfort from the fact that his knock is now the highest Test score by any Pakistan wicketkeeper-batsman on Australian soil.
Combined with his fluent 37 in the first innings, there is a strong case for Rizwan being Pakistan’s best player with the bat in the match. It’s a shame then that he wasn’t batting much higher than No7.
Hazlewood leads Australia’s late charge for innings win
Australia’s bowlers and fielders were chasing leather for the most part of Day Four as Babar and Rizwan put on a batting exhibition. Despite the early wickets of Shan Masood and Iftikhar Ahmed, the Aussie bowling attack were kept at bay on a day where conditions seemed excellent for batting.
With not much lateral movement being found on the surface, it was looking increasingly likely that the hosts would have to bat again to finish off Pakistan’s resistance. Luckily for them, it didn’t come to that with the final four Pakistan wickets falling for just 30 runs.
Hazelwood turned out to be the difference-maker for the hosts with the seamer claiming four of the seven Pakistan wickets to fall on the day. Also crucial was Lyon’s dismissal of Babar with the Pakistan man having looked in complete control before he was caught-behind by Tim Paine.
The commanding win will give plenty of confidence to Australia ahead of the second Test, especially to head coach Justin Langer. The former opener had put the spotlight on his team’s batsmen ahead of the series after Steve Smith had almost single-handedly held fort in the Ashes series in England.
His call was answered in emphatic fashion with Smith actually ending up as Australia’s lowest run-scorer in the match after being dismissed for four. The top-three of David Warner, Joe Burns and Marnus Labuschagne alone contributed with 436 runs, while Mathew Wade also chipped in with a handy 60.
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