BRISBANE: After a tense and lengthy innings that was shaping as one of the greatest chases in test cricket, Pakistan’s bold bid to beat Australia in the series-opening day-night Test was wrapped up in five balls yesterday.
Asad Shafiq marshalled the Pakistan tail-enders from 173-5 to 449-8 in pursuit of the improbable target of 490, scoring 137 from 207 balls before he was caught at gully, fending off a Mitchell Starc short ball.
Four balls and one run later, skipper Steve Smith threw down the stumps from second slip to run out Yasir Shah for 33. That ensured Smith’s young lineup held off Pakistan by 39 runs, maintained Australia’s unbeaten at the Gabba since 1988 and avoided the embarrassment of losing the unlosable.
After frustrating Australia on an extended, rain-interrupted fourth day, Pakistan started day five needing 108 to win while Australia needed two wickets. Fewer than 1,000 people were in the crowd when play started under overcast skies, including a small but vocal group of expats cheering every run and chanting “Pakistan Zindabad” – or long live Pakistan.
Shafiq and Shah kept the pressure on Australia in a 71-run partnership that went close to giving Pakistan an unlikely world-record victory. After Shafiq’s departure, the responsibility moved to Shah, who earlier had an lbw decision overturned on review. He dug out a yorker from Starc, steering it toward the slips, but moved out of his crease and Smith swooped. The Australian captain had dropped two catches at second slip, including Shafiq on 72, and admitted he was relieved he got to end the game.
New Zealand’s 451 chasing 550 against England in Christchurch in 2002 remains the record for the highest fourth innings total to lose a test, but this was a closer call.
“The pleasing thing for me, first of all, is we got across the line and won the game,” Smith said. “I’m very pleased with that. But I guess last night, sort of showed we’re still not the finished product.
We’ve got to continue to work hard, and keep the foot on the throat when we’ve got them in that position. We’ve got to be a little more ruthless and get the job done.”
Smith praised Pakistan’s pluck, with Azhar Ali (71) and Younis Khan (65) contributing at the top of the order before Shafiq took charge to ensure no repeat of the collapse in the first innings, when the visitors lost 7-24 and were all out for 142 in reply to Australia’s 429.
“Things got a little bit close for my liking,” said Smith, admitting he was nervous when Pakistan got within 60. “It was an amazing game of cricket. Credit to Pakistan, they scored 450 in the last innings of a pink ball test match – no doubt pink ball test cricket is here to stay.”
Australia ended a five-test losing streak last month with a win over South Africa in a day-night test in Adelaide, narrowing the losing margin to 2-1 in that series. Smith then led Australia to a 3-0 sweep of New Zealand in a limited-overs series, before the opening test against Pakistan – the first-ever day-night test at the Gabba. Pakistan won the second ever day-night test – beating the West Indies in the United Arab Emirates in October – but the conditions were vastly different with more swing in humid, subtropical Brisbane.
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq praised his batsmen, particularly Shafiq, who equaled his highest test score with his 10th century. “It set the tone for the series. I can’t explain how happy I am for all the guys, especially Asad,”
Misbah said. “That is one of the classiest innings I have seen. In the context of the game, the way he handled the pressure playing with (the) tail, he made a match out of nothing.”
Pakistan has lost 10 consecutive tests in Australia since 1995 and has never won a test at the Gabba, where Australia is unbeaten since 1988, but Misbah said they’d travel to Melbourne full of confidence ahead of the second Test starting Dec 26. – AP