Mitchell Starc combined with Josh Hazlewood and Jackson Bird to run-over Pakistan’s batting line-up on a hard and bouncy track in the first innings. Asad Shafiq couldn’t resist slashing a good length delivery off Mitchell Starc at third slip to Usman Khawaja for 2.
Predictably, the home side decided to pile on the misery by not enforcing the follow on but electing to bat again to set an improbable fourth-innings target. And Australia last lost a Test match in this ground way back in 1988 against the Windies.
But the entire fourth day of that Test, in pursuit of a daunting 490, Shafiq stood steadfast between Australia and their inevitable victory.
Until Shafiq inserted the belief of a realistic victory, it looked like the rest of the batting line-up were looking to bridge the gap as much as possible. Consequently, each tailender lent their support to the right-hander better than the previous one.
Starc produced a magical but an ordinary back off a length delivery underneath of which David Warner settles in to take a simple chance. Four balls later, the game was Australia’s by a narrow margin of 40 runs. But for what Shafiq had almost pulled off, it feels weird that there seems to be no mention of him.
Again – that’s the way the veteran has played throughout his career and flourished. Going unnoticed in the light of constant infusion of the fast bowlers has made his runs more savoury.
On Thursday, he returned to the iconic venue in a quest to script another genius knock and get some edge. Initially, he watched as Mohammad Rizwan launched an onslaught, taking apart the number one Test bowler. The spotlight dawned upon him when the controversial decision of Rizwan ensued, and Pakistan were again in a spot of bother.
Shafiq was 18 off 58 deliveries back then and Yasir Shah, another prominent figure from the near heist in Brisbane three years ago, joined him. In the next few years, Shah did get beaten on numerous occasions, but he took the baby steps to bring the counterattack to Australia.
Shafiq collected his first boundary since Rizwan’s dismissal off Pat Cummins, playing a square drive to get the ball past gully. And just like that by churning out the ones and twos, the tourists had recovered well in the next few overs.
He brought his fifty by working one to the fine leg off Nathan Lyon. He batted in a different league compared to the other batsmen. It may not have carried more relevance than that in 2016, but it was every bit richly deserving of appreciation.
Nevertheless, the job in terms of the bigger picture still remained unfinished. Along with Shah, he stood between another miserable Australian tour that has started with plenty of promise.
Yet at the fall of another two wickets in Shah and Shaheen Afridi, Shafiq held the capability to inspire his side to many more valuable runs. However, he was done by an absolute peach of an inswinger that intruded through to the stumps between a massive gap between bat and pad.
Amid this, he gave Pakistan something to fight out of and proved that he is unsung but hardly an underachiever.
The decision by the ECB to abandon their tour of Pakistan this week, on top of India’s decision to abandon the fifth Test of their series against India two weeks ago, along with New Zealand’s decision to abandon their tour of Pakistan last week has left the cricket world in a state of flux.
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