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The Liebke Report Card: 'It would have made the entire commentary box’s heads explode'

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Expert
16th March, 2022
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After the first Test finished in a boring draw, the second Test between Pakistan and Australia showed the variety of the longest form of the game, finishing this time in an interesting draw. Progress!

Here’s the report card for the second Test.

Wicketkeeper comedy routines
Grade: B-

Perhaps sensing that he hadn’t completely secured his spot in Australia’s Test line-up, Alex Carey decided to endear himself to his teammates with some impromptu slapstick comedy. 

Upon arrival at the team hotel, he proceeded to stumble awkwardly into the swimming pool, much to the delight of both team mates and media outlets around the world looking for some viral content.

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Alex Carey speaks

(Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images for 2022 T20 World Cup )

It was good stuff from Carey, whose humorous antics have surely seen him kick clear of Josh Inglis as first-choice Test keeper. You can’t axe somebody who has made you laugh so hard. That’s a known fact. Why do you think Adam Gilchrist had such big ears?

But Inglis has not given up. Rumour has it that he’s working on a tight five that will have the entire Australian squad slapping their knees and guffawing loudly.

“Did you see Alex Carey fall into the pool the other day?” the routine begins. “More like Alex Carelessly, amirite?” (Pause for laughter.) “But seriously, guys, who does he think he is, Matthew Wade?”

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And so on and so forth.

Still quite a way to go for Josh, one would think.

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Not declaring
Grade: A

Australia won the toss and chose to bat. Everybody settled in for a couple of days of run scoring as per the first Test.

Or, as it turned out even longer than that, as captain Pat Cummins drove commentators and social media grumblers alike completely insane with his refusal to declare late on the second day.

As the day inched closer and closer to stumps, you could hear the frustrated commentators start perspiring, clawing at their skin and exhibiting erratic, uncontrollable movements as Cummins’ adamance that he was batting on began to get to them.

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What was he waiting for? We’d already seen Usman Khawaja score a sublime century in which he’d shown yet again how easy Test cricket batting is. (You just wait for the ball to get to you then calmly play the most appropriate shot to it. Easy.)

Usman Khawaja of Australia plays a reverse sweep

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

And we’d already seen Pakistan try to curtail the run scoring by bowling down leg side. (Fun fact: Even though the commentators were calling this ‘negative bowling’ no runs were being subtracted from Australia’s total.)

And we’d also seen Marnus Labuschagne run himself out for a duck and then stare disconsolately at a laptop screen for two days. What more could Australia possibly achieve by batting on?

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Still, maybe Cummins had a point. Young commentators today are all ‘declare’ this and ‘have a go at them tonight’ that, when they should instead be ‘bat big’ now and ‘give Carey a break, the man fell in a swimming pool’ the other.

Honing one’s hearing
Grade: B+

Anyway, after tonking a few sixes early on the third morning, even Cummins started getting bored with piling on the runs. Finally he brought the cruel torture of Labuschagne to an end, declaring on 9-556.

Just in the nick of time too. Because suddenly it wasn’t so easy to bat out there. Or even run between the wickets. A run out from Mitchell Swepson before lunch started the parade of Pakistan wickets at 1-26, and after lunch, they marched in and out with alarming frequency.

Perhaps the most impressive wicket was that of Sajid Khan, who feathered one behind. The edge was so faint that Mitch Starc didn’t even bother appealing, but Carey insisted upon the review and was proven correct.

Now we learn the method to Carey’s madness. Sound travels further underwater. Great forward planning from the keeper to be honing his hearing from the moment he arrived in Karachi.

Leadership battles
Grade: C

After Pakistan were dismissed for 148, Australia located the people who were annoyed by them not declaring sooner and annoyed them all over again by not enforcing the follow-on.

But it was only a token act of trolling from Cummins, who didn’t actually waste all that much time on the second innings. Just a couple of dozen overs to take their lead beyond 500 once more. Then as soon as Labuschagne was dismissed, he called them in.

Patrick Cummins poses during the Australia Test Cricket Team headshots session at NCC on November 30, 2021 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Pretty disappointing for Smith who missed out on a hit. Still, he got a chance for revenge later in the day, when captain Cummins caught the edge of Abdullah Shafique’s bat and the vice-captain spilled the easy chance at slip.

“Oh, sorry, Patrick,” Smith was overheard saying on the stump microphone. “Do you enjoy taking wickets? And I denied you the chance to do so? I can’t imagine how horrible that must feel.”

Sublime, merciless batting
Grade: A-

Smith probably assumed he could indulge in such pettiness because Australia early on seemed on track to run through the Pakistan batting as effortlessly on the fourth day as they did on the third.

But from 2-21, Shafique and Babar Azam started doing that thing from the first Test where Pakistan batters are suddenly impossible to dismiss, batting out the rest of the day.

Shortly before stumps, Babar brought up a magnificent century that he celebrated with deserved gusto. (The social media hashtag for this series is #PAKvAUS. Proposal: Change it to #PATvAZ.)

Babar Azam of Pakistan celebrates a century during day four of the 1st Domain Test between Australia and Pakistan at The Gabba on November 24, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Jono Searle - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

(Photo by Jono Searle – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

The pair then continued into the fifth day as the match headed for an inevitable draw. Sure, Australia picked up some stray wickets here and there to ensure the match ended in an entertaining fashion, but Mohammad Rizwan’s rearguard century ensured neither side finished victorious, with the two teams heading to Lahore dead level on 21-21 in terms of wickets taken.

In retrospect, perhaps Cummins should have not only not enforced the follow on, but not declared in the second innings at all.

Instead, why not have the Australians bat until stumps on the fifth day, completely wearing out the entire Pakistan team for a proper charge at victory in the third Test?

That’s how you play the long game.

Bonus: it would have made the entire commentary box’s heads explode. Never a bad thing.

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