Cricket, lovely cricket – at Pindi Cricket Stadium where I saw it.
Day 4 was a return to form, thankfully. It rained, the bowlers came into the game and we actually had something of a contest between bat and ball.
Sure, it also involved Nauman Ali bowling rank leg side filth and Babar Azam bringing himself on for an over, but hey – we’re going into Day 5 and still in the second innings, so you take the victories where you can.
The story will be that Australians again failed to convert their scores into centuries: Marnus Labuschagne was done on 90 by Shaheen Shah Afridi with an honest to go nick through to the keeper (remember them?!) and Steven Smith fell on 78 attempting to something something a ball he had to reason whatsoever to hit. He didn’t know what he was trying either.
But the wider narrative was that Pakistan, aided by a spot of rain, actually made the ball do something. People got out and it wasn’t their own fault. That hasn’t happened in four days in Rawalpindi.
Australia 7/449, stumps on Day 4. Pakistan made 476/4
Finally, a deck swinging contest
It’s not been a week to be a fast bowler. Yet, Pakistan’s pace pair flipped the switch midway through the day and managed to extract something, anything, from this pitch.
The figures of Naseem Shah and Shaheen Shah Afridi read 89/1 and 80/1 respectively, which doesn’t look like they had a great time of it, but figures are only half the story.
Shaheen brought boundless enthusiasm to his task, seemingly convinced that four days’ worth of a pitch brought to you by Paul Bearer was suddenly going to turn into Chester-le-Street in April.
By the time he got Marnus Labuschagne out driving, he’d convinced everyone else too. Through pure hostility, effort and his own skill, he changed the tone of the innings.
He might yet change the tone of his relationship with Marnus: the pair have met three times previously, with Labuschagne scoring 185, 162 and now 90. But who got him out on all three occasions?
Naseem was a little more wayward, perhaps lacking the nous of the attack leader Shaheen, but when he found his angle and line, he picked up Alex Carey. It’s Carey’s luck at the moment that after dropping a catch and missing a clear DRS as a keeper, he gets the only ball to deck off the pitch in 250+ overs.
Mark my words, Smith, your day of reckoning is coming
In a Test that has plumbed the depths somewhat in terms of what bowlers need to do to take a wicket. Nauman, like his namesake postal worker, had to bend the rules of decency from time to time to get his rewards, but they did come.
He decided that if the pitch wasn’t going to help him, he could buy a wicket through annoying the batsmen, and set about with a rank leg side line.
Cameron Green was the first to fall into the trap, going on 48 with a top edge off a sweep, hook line and sinker to the wily Nauman. Smith, not long later, fell the same way and was visibly livid at himself as he walked off.
The Pakistani spinner will not give a monkeys that he got his wickets in the most negative manner imaginable: he leaves today at 4/107 at less than 3 an over and that’s what Cricinfo will say forever.