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Every Aussie rated from first Test vs Pakistan: Brutal Bison, Marnus misery as Warner secures farewell

17th December, 2023
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17th December, 2023
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A vintage David Warner century, a 500th wicket for Nathan Lyon and a resounding win over Pakistan – things could hardly have gone much better for Australia in the first Test.

Challenged at times by a plucky performance from the tourists, headlined by debutant Amir Jamal’s six-wicket haul and some doughty first-innings knocks from their top order, the Aussies had to work harder for victory than many thought heading into the match, but when Pakistan at last broke on the final day, they crumbled spectacularly in the face of some hostile bowling from surely the world’s best pace bowling trio of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.

Mitchell Marsh’s first Test on home soil in nearly five years also went swimmingly as he entrenched himself in the team ahead of Cameron Green with a player-of-the-match performance featuring twin half-centuries.

On the other hand, Optus Stadium was a nightmare for Marnus Labuschagne; having demolished the West Indies with a double-ton and ton in Perth last year, scores of 16 and 2 – and a nasty blow to the gloves on the third evening – was about as far from his heroics 12 months ago as it’s possible to be.

Here are The Roar’s player ratings for the first Test.

David Warner – 9

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The central narrative heading into the summer revolved around Warner, and fierce criticism from Mitchell Johnson in particular over his right to a prolonged farewell leading into the Sydney Test.

With all that going on in the background, few if any of the veteran’s 26 Test centuries can have felt sweeter than this one; with dashing strokeplay, sharp running and a ferocious appetite to punish Pakistan’s attack, Warner’s first innings 164 set Australia up beautifully for the rest of the match, and ensures he will get the chance to retire on his own terms.

The match was already all but gone as a contest by the time his second innings duck rolled around, though it did send his career batting average against Pakistan plummeting to *checks notes*… 83.35.

It was, in this author’s opinion, a travesty that Warner was overlooked for player of the match honours; but hey, that balances out nicely with his player of the series gong against South Africa last summer being equally undeserved.

Usman Khawaja – 8

That two excellent knocks from Khawaja in Perth have flown under the radar for the last few days is a testament to how we’ve all come to expect constant quality from the reborn veteran in the second coming of his Test career.

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The steady hand to Warner’s explosiveness on the first morning, Khawaja might have been a touch streaky, but their 126-run opening stand took the game away from Pakistan in a trice.

Even better was his second innings 90 on a spicy pitch, one of his gutsiest innings; repeatedly wearing blows to body and gloves as the pitch began to break up, the 36-year old was bruised but not beaten, unselfishly holing out 10 shy of a century in pursuit of quick runs.

Marnus Labuschagne – 2

Alarm bells shouldn’t be ringing yet, but twin failures from Australia’s usually reliable number three have officially confirmed 2023 as his worst year with the bat since spectacularly bursting onto the scene in 2019.

Scores of 16 and 2 in Perth – a top edge off a poorly executed pull in the second innings particularly ugly – leave him averaging a tick over 35 for the year with only one century, the first time aside from his two-Test 2018 that number has fallen below 50.

Form is temporary and class is permanent, as the saying goes; hopefully this dip in form abates for the next two summers, because Labuschagne is going to be crucial in tough upcoming home series against India and England.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 16: Marnus Labuschagne of Australia looks dejected after being dismissed by Khurram Shahzad of Pakistan during day three of the Men's First Test match between Australia and Pakistan at Optus Stadium on December 16, 2023 in Perth, Australia (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Marnus Labuschagne looks dejected after being dismissed. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

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Steve Smith – 6

It’s rare to see Smith twice blow starts in the same Test, but with 31 and 45 in Perth, the champion will no doubt be frustrated at his inability to take the match by the throat with a score of note.

Debutant quick Khurram Shahzad can tell the grandkids that he knocked over Steve Smith twice in his first Test, twice drawing mistakes from one of the greatest batters ever – no mean feat.

Travis Head – 5.5

The World Cup hero threatened another of his trademark, Gilchrist-esque innings on the first day as he blazed a swathe of boundaries; given that, Pakistan would have been thrilled that he only contributed 40 before falling in familiar fashion to a catch at third man off an airy slash.

Possibly Australia’s most important batter, Head wasn’t required to produce a game-turning innings in Perth, while his handy off-breaks did net him the final wicket of Pakistan’s first innings as a nice little bonus for the budding all-rounder.

Mitchell Marsh – 9

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The Perth crowd were thrilled when the hometown hero, in his first Test in Australia since 2018, was adjudged player of the match – even if Warner probably deserved it more.

Take nothing away from Marsh’s latest exceptional outing, though; he is striking the ball as sweetly as anyone on the planet at the moment, with scores of 90 and 63 not out providing the sort of freewheeling counterattacks that Head has been performing of late.

If there was any doubt about his spot in the team over Cameron Green, it is well and truly gone; add to that the crucial wicket of Babar Azam in the first innings, and the beloved Bison was nothing short of outstanding in front of his home crowd.

Alex Carey (wk) – 7.5

It’s a mark of a good wicketkeeper to be seldom noticed, and by and large, Carey was immaculate with the gloves in Perth.

18 byes across two innings doesn’t do his keeping justice; on a pitch with plenty of bounce, the occasional ball from Starc or Hazlewood would prove impossible to stop. His twin stumpings off Nathan Lyon and five safely pouched catches are a far better reflection of his performance.

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With the bat, he was unlucky to cop the ball of the match in the first innings from Jamal, bowled neck and crop by a vicious Aamer Jamal cutter.

Mitchell Starc – 7.5

Australia’s Ashes player of the series was again a menace on home soil; mixing late swing with a more incisive and consistent line and length than usual, Starc played a big role in keeping Pakistan’s first innings under wraps while the pitch was still benign.

His beauty to curl through Sarfaraz Ahmed and send his off stump flying rivals Jamal’s for ball of the match, while in the second innings, with the wicket playing all sorts of tricks, he nicked off Abdullah Shafique in the first over to start the rot, adding Imam-ul-Haq and Sarfaraz again to complete an excellent match.

The pick of the quicks – and that’s high praise.

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Pat Cummins (c) – 7.5

Cummins has had better matches with the ball – though just three wickets for the Test is precious little reward for the amount of times he beat the bat – but it’s hard to remember him having many better as captain.

Rotating his bowlers immaculately in the first innings and tying Pakistan down with aggressive fields that still prevented easy runs, that the tourists could only muster 271 despite batting more than 100 overs – a mark England only reached once in the Ashes – was a credit to his leadership and improving tactical nous.

His use of the DRS is also improving, with a sharp review for LBW granting Lyon his 500th Test wicket – even if the off-spinner let slip after the game Cummins had to be persuaded to go upstairs.

Nathan Lyon – 8

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There could be no more fitting venue for Lyon’s 500th Test wicket than Optus Stadium – in a state historically considered to be a graveyard for finger spinners, the man who has built a legendary career out of extracting everything possible from wickets geared towards pace bowling was once again superb throughout.

In his first Test since tearing his calf at Lord’s during the Ashes, Lyon picked up right where he left off, with three first-innings wickets – including the first of the innings after a 74-run opening stand – leaving him one shy of joining icnos Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath in an exclusive club.

That his milestone wicket needed to be granted by a successful review was a touch anticlimactic, but the positive was it meant the rest of the team had congregated around him, and could celebrate a wonderful achievement together.

Josh Hazlewood – 7

Four wickets from Hazlewood placed him smack bang between Starc (five) and Cummins (three) for the Test, but like his captain, the right-armer deserved more after beating the bat countless times in the first innings.

Nicking off Pakistan captain Shan Masood early on the fourth afternoon was well overdue reward for the big quick, as were the two wickets off consecutive balls to finish the match off.

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