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The Liebke Ratings: Australia vs Pakistan first Test

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24th November, 2019
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Another Test summer, another futile trip to the Gabba for a visiting team. This time around it’s Pakistan who were marched to their inevitable doom at the Gabbatoir.

Here are the ratings for the first Test between Australia and Pakistan.

Trophies

Grade: C
Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat first, with the two teams playing for some trophy named after a random sponsor – the Alinta Energy Domain Marsh KFC Bucket Cup, perhaps.

These sides deserve better. Why not play for the Lillee-Miandad Cup? After all, if you can’t make a compelling trophy from the image of one man threatening to hit another man with a cricket bat after the second man kicked the first man in the bum, then my apologies but you’re a sorry excuse for a sculptor.

As a secondary note, trophies should always reverse the names depending on which team holds them. It should be the Gavaskar-Border Trophy. The Warne-Muralitharan Trophy. The Sehsa.

Under these guidelines Pakistan would currently hold the Miandad-Lillee Cup after their series victory in the UAE last year.

Pakistan looked determined to retain it after losing no wickets in the first session. However, a flurry of wickets in the middle session followed by the controversial dismissal of Mohammad Rizwan from what appeared to be a Pat Cummins no ball meant they were dismissed for 240 by the end of the first day.

As disappointed as Pakistan would have been by the non-no-ball third umpire decision, they must surely realise that a cricketer as pure and handsome as Cummins would never cheat by bowling an illegal delivery.

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The television umpire would also have understood this, and therefore weighed this moral certainty above his fallible human senses and what appeared to the flawed human eye to be a line with no part of the heel behind it.

That’s philosophy 101 and good umpiring.

Australian fast bowler Pat Cummins.

(Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Joe Burns and David Warner

Grade: B-
The second day saw Joe Burns and David Warner put on a double century opening partnership.

Burns-Warner sounds like the job title of the person outside the Gabba who advises you to put on plenty of sunscreen, and the Burns-Warner pair in the middle had similar pain-saving Gabba advice for Pakistan.

Namely, that it was a big mistake to have not selected Mohammad Abbas for this Test.

And an even bigger mistake to have not selected Stuart Broad.

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Marnus Labuschagne

Grade: B+
The opening partnership was broken when Burns was bowled around his legs by Yasir Shah for 97.

As ever, the commentators were quick to assure us that Burns ’deserved a century’. Similarly, in Pakistan’s second innings, Rizwan fell for 95, inexplicably upper-cutting a Josh Hazlewood short ball to Nathan Lyon in the deep. He, too, ‘deserved a century’.

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Y’know, just one time I’d like to see a batsman dismissed in the 90s and have the commentators say, “Good. That idiot didn’t deserve a century.”

The wicket of Burns – who definitely deserved a 97 – brought Marnus Labuschagne to the crease, and Australia’s No. 3 batsman put on an absolute Marnusclass.

He effortlessly made his way to a maiden Test century, batting with such cool that he should have been wearing Labushades (pronounced ‘la-BOO-sha-DEES’).

Not content with a mere century, he reset and proceeded to bat Pakistan out of the game, finally dismissed with Australia holding a 300-run lead, for an epic 185.

Of course while a Test high score of 185 is good, it still technically means that Jason Gillespie is a better Test batsman than Marnus Labuschagne. Something to work on.

Marnus Labuschagne

(Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

The decline of Steve Smith

Grade: A-
But speaking of criminally flawed batsmen, the hype surrounding Steve Smith’s return to Test cricket on Australian soil was immense.

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On Fox Sports Shane Warne on commentary claimed that he truly believes Smith is a great batsman simply because he loves batting more than everybody else.

Of course Shane also truly believes that aliens built the pyramids. So draw your own conclusions.

The rest of the Fox commentary team, meanwhile, is obsessed with Smith’s insomnia during Tests.

It’s very possible that Steve Smith would sleep a lot better if before bed each evening he simply listened to the Fox Sports commentators drone on endlessly about his sleeping patterns.

After all the hype, it was perhaps disappointing when Smith was dismissed for just four runs, a score that became the lowest of the Australian innings when Josh Hazlewood later powered a shot down the ground to reach five.

For how long can this outstanding Australian batting line-up be expected to carry the underperforming former captain?

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Babar Azam

Grade: B+
Despite having to carry Smith, Australia finished on 580 all out, a lead of 340 on the first innings.

It was a lead too large for the Pakistan side to overcome despite the best efforts of Babar Azam, who made 104 in a sparkling knock.

‘Babarazam!’ sounds like something a wizard says to summon powerful mystical forces, which seems appropriate, as for much of the fourth day he magically transformed the dreaded Gabbatoir into the benign Babartoir.

Despite Babar’s efforts, when Imran Khan – no relation to former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram – was the final wicket to fall, caught by Matthew Wade off the bowling of Mitchell Starc, Australia had won by an innings and five runs.

More importantly, Shaheen Afridi’s score of ten in the second innings meant that Steve Smith ended the match with fewer runs for the Test than any other player.

Australia will need to sort this problem out – and quickly – before the second Test in Adelaide.

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