A disciplined all-round bowling performance on day five was the catalyst for Australia’s comprehensive 220-run victory over Pakistan in the third Test at the SCG. Pakistan were bowled out shortly before tea for 244 with wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed finishing unbeaten on a 70-ball 72 during an enterprising knock that was all in vain.
It meant Australia swept the series 3-0 and have now astoundingly won 12 straight Tests against Pakistan at home. Ahead of a crux tour of India next month, Australia have notched four straight Test victories for the first time in three years.
Needing 465 for victory or, more realistically, batting out 98 overs to save the Test, Pakistan were derailed in the opening hour, losing three wickets to sink their collective spirit. It was a disastrous start for them when redoubtable opener Azhar Ali (11) was caught and bowled by Josh Hazlewood (3 for 29) in the first over of the day.
Four overs later, Hazlewood added another scalp when he trapped struggling No.3 Babar Azam (9) in front, completing a wretched series for the precocious youngster that yielded just 68 runs. Hazlewood, Australia’s standout bowler this summer, was rewarded for archetypal probing bowling, which was aided by late movement from a deteriorating SCG wicket.
Much pressure was on veteran batsman Younis Khan, who was tantalisingly 36 short of 10,000 Test runs after his brilliant 175 not out in the first innings. Unfortunately, there was no milestone as Younis was caught at mid-on after charging offspinner Nathan Lyon, a tactic that had served him well during his memorable hundred in the first essay. It meant the 39-year-old fell 23 runs short of the coveted landmark, as the SCG faithful gave him a standing ovation in acknowledgement of his last knock in Australia.
With batsmen falling around him, nightwatchman Yasir Shah (13 from 93 balls) provided the necessary resilience with a stout batting effort to defy the swarming Australians. In a series where gritty batting has overshadowed his innocuous bowling, Yasir was providing more fight than Pakistan’s top-order but his defiance ended when he edged Stephen O’Keefe (3 for 53) to Jackson Bird at second slip, leaving the visitors reeling at 96 for 5. With three catches in the match, Bird, dropped for this Test after three consecutive matches, found himself regularly in the action as a substitute fielder for Matt Renshaw, who suffered concussion on day three.
In possibly his last innings of his Test career, Misbah-ul-Haq looked out of sorts after a torrid series marked by a slew of reckless dismissals. The stonewalling situation forced him to play more defensively unlike previous innings where counterattacking proved fatal.
However, regardless, No. 6 Asad Shafiq believed counterattacking was a more sustainable option in a bid to replicate his astounding century during Pakistan’s herculean fourth innings in Brisbane. Ever aggressive, Shafiq didn’t let the situation deter him, hitting several trademark shots before playing on to Mitchell Starc shortly after lunch.
Just when the match appeared to be wrapping up quickly, Misbah and Sarfraz prolonged the inevitable with a 52-run seventh-wicket partnership before the Pakistani captain couldn’t resist attempting a bludgeon on one knee off O’Keefe. Instead, Misbah (38 from 98 balls) didn’t connect cleanly and he was caught at mid-off. Like Younis, Misbah received a warm ovation from the SCG members as he trudged off the ground for possibly the final time in Test cricket.
Misbah’s dismissal essentially ended Pakistan’s resistance – if there had ever been any doubt of the result – and the remainder was played in a festival-type atmosphere with a larger than usual day five crowd turning up due to entry being by gold coin donation. The largest cheers from a hearty SCG crowd was directed at substitute fielder Mickey Edwards, a NSW club cricketer, whose flowing blonde locks ensured he seized Nathan Lyon’s cult hero mantle.
It all meant that Australia’s successful rebirth continued since a horrible start to the summer after losses against South Africa in Perth and Hobart. Conversely, it means Pakistan’s hoodoo in Australia lingers after suffering their 12th straight Test loss Down Under, a country where they have still frustratingly never won a series.
It was an inevitable and fairly painstaking finale to a series that teased but ultimately proved to be an anti-climax.
Brief Scores: Australia 538/8 decl. & 241/2 decl. beat Pakistan 315 & 244 (Sarfraz Ahmed 72*, Sharjeel Khan 40; Josh Hazlewood 3-29, Steve O’Keefe 3-53) by 220 runs.