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Every Aussie rated for third Test and series vs Pakistan: Warner bows out in style, but captain Cummins is king

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6th January, 2024
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Like it was at the MCG, Australia were made to fight tooth and nail by a resilient Pakistan to secure victory at the SCG and a 3-0 series sweep.

But manage it they did, to inflict upon the hosts a 17th consecutive Test loss down under, and send David Warner off on a high.

The man himself made sure his final Test was one to remember with a swashbuckling last-day counterattack to make short work of the run chase; meanwhile, teammates Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne all made runs, but showed varying degrees of patchy form on a slow Sydney surface in doing so.

Really, this Test belonged to the bowlers: Pat Cummins secured his third consecutive five-wicket haul on Day 1 with another masterclass, Mitchell Starc twice picked up wickets in the first over of the innings to hand Abdullah Shafique a dreaded pair, and Josh Hazlewood finally received his just desserts for an excellent series with a triple-wicket maiden on Day 3 to rip the heart out of Pakistan’s fight.

Here are The Roar’s player ratings for the third Test – and the full Benaud-Qadir Trophy.

David Warner

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Third Test: 7

Series: 8

Being dismissed before he could get the chance to hit the winning runs was just about the only blemish on a sweet swansong to Test cricket from Warner at the SCG.

Unable to capitalise on another Pakistan dropped sitter in the first innings, the second was the veteran at his best as he made short work of what could have been a tricky run chase, with his strike rate of 76 on a difficult pitch as impressive as his eventual 57.

It caps an excellent last series for Warner, the highlight of course his match-defining 164 on the first day in Perth – say what you will about him, but especially in home conditions, Australia will find replacing his scoring power and ability to put pressure instantly back on the bowlers extremely difficult.

Usman Khawaja

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Third Test: 5

Series: 5.5

Far from awful, especially in compiling a gritty 47 on the second day; but Khawaja has often found scoring fluently a challenge this series, for the first real time since his remarkable Test renaissance began two years ago.

A strike rate of under 33 in the first innings meant Pakistan’s bowlers were never truly put under the pump even without his wicket; he was, however, slightly unlucky in the second to be dismissed on 0 for a line-ball LBW.

Loses a point for dropping a catch off Aamer Jamal on Day 1 that could have wrapped up Pakistan’s tail far quicker.

Marnus Labuschagne

Third Test: 8

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Series: 5.5

No doubt Labuschagne will be hoping his splendid, breezy 62 not out on Day 4 to make short work of the run chase is a sign his form is turning around after a challenging 12 months.

While he hit twin half-centuries at the SCG, the contrast between them was stark: while far from short of runs this series, a painstaking 147-ball 60 yet again showed the struggle for fluency that has plagued him all summer. By the time he was dismissed by a Salman Ali Agha beauty, Australia had less than 200 on the board with the second new ball looming, and in a spot of bother.

Runs are runs, however: and his final day red ink meant Labuschagne finished the series with three 50s in his last four innings.

Steve Smith

Third Test: 6

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Series: 5

You could basically rinse and repeat the above criticism of Labuschagne’s series and apply it to Smith, just without the face-saving run-chase 50.

Smith, like his batting partner, has struggled all series to find his usually crisp timing, with his frustrated reaction to falling into a Pakistan cover trap on Day 3 symbolising his slide from batting immortality to the ranks of the mere very good.

Has said he’d be happy to be considered as Warner’s replacement at the top of the order for the West Indies series; but would that be too much for even the champion to deal with in the twilight of his career?

Travis Head

Third Test: 3.5

Series: 2

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Managing a scratchy 10 in his only innings for the Test before being trapped LBW by Aamer Jamal, Head looked set to endure his second nightmare match in a row.

However, he’d still find a way to influence proceedings – with the ball. Given a spell on Day 4 at a crucial time, he’d strike gold for Pat Cummins by getting the big fish Babar Azam excellently caught behind by Alex Carey, another victory for his more than handy part-time spin.

An excellent catch to remove Jamal on the fifth day was a nice dose of revenge, and an extra half a point in his favour – but it wasn’t enough to salvage much from his worst ever Test series with the bat.

Mitchell Marsh

Third Test: 8

Series: 9.5

Nowhere near as dominant and fearsome as in Perth and Melbourne, a slower Sydney pitch and a challenging Pakistan bowling attack presented Marsh a different challenge, one he passed with (mostly) flying colours.

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His 54 in the first innings rescued Australia from a precarious position, and the collapse of 5/10 around his dismissal indicated his knock was a good one in tricky conditions; add that to the prized wicket of captain Shan Masood in the first innings after giving him a no-ball reprieve, and Marsh was still one of the hosts’ premier contributors.

The standout batter by a country mile across both teams this summer, he was unlucky to mis out on Player of the Series honours – but the bloke who got that gong was pretty handy too.

Alex Carey (wk)

Third Test: 8

Series: 8

For all the question marks over his place in the Test team, Carey finishes the first part of the summer with an average of 32.25 – perfectly reasonable for a wicketkeeper.

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While 38 in the first innings at the SCG wasn’t the big score he’d have wanted, he was just about the only Australian to unsettle Pakistan’s bowlers with his attacking approach – only Nathan Lyon’s three-ball stay joined him with a strike rate above 50.

Again exceptional with the gloves, as he has been all series – there are plenty of keepers around the country who would have shelled the excellent catch he took off a Head skidder to see the back of Babar.

Mitchell Starc

Third Test: 6

Series: 7

The ball of the summer has to count for something, right?

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The Sydney Test was quintessential Mitchell Starc: an utterly unplayable delivery to skittle Abdullah Shafique in the second innings, removing the same batter after just four balls in the first – and plenty of utter dross in between.

Going at more than four runs per over from the Test and given just one four-over spell in the second innings, Pakistan’s batting order, Babar and Masood in particular, made a point of punishing anything loose he offered – as it has been for much of the series, where his wicket-taking potency has been unquestioned but his capacity to leak runs balancing it out somewhat.

Pat Cummins (c)

Third Test: 7.5

Series: 9.5

With five wickets on the first day, the captain looked set to follow on from his Boxing Day Test heroics with another perfect player ratings score.

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However, from the moment Pakistan slumped to nine down on Day 1, Cummins’ match took a downturn; a bizarre and widely criticised short-ball ploy to the last pair allowed the tourists to add 86 for the final wicket, while his ugly first-innings duck after completely missing a Jamal full toss was among the more ungainly dismissals of his career.

Took just one wicket – Jamal’s – in the second innings, but his captaincy improved markedly, with some inspired bowling changes late on Day 3 to turn the match firmly Australia’s way.

What a series. What a player. What a skipper.

Nathan Lyon

Third Test: 6.5

Series: 7

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Lyon finishes the series with a healthy bowling average of 26.69 and 13 wickets – but it has been a while since a team has so obviously attempted to bring him down.

With the pitch not playing many tricks on Day 1, a Mohammad Rizwan onslaught meant Lyon only bowled 17 expensive overs, his one wicket Jamal holing out to long on.

Found the conditions more to his liking in the second to pick up three wickets, two of them on the fourth morning to ensure Pakistan’s tail wouldn’t wag again – but no doubt India will have taken note of how unthreatening Lyon looked throughout the Boxing Day Test and the first innings in Sydney when the fight was taken to him.

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Josh Hazlewood

Third Test: 8

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Series: 8

After day upon day of brilliant bowling with limited rewards, Hazlewood at last broke the shackles with a sensational triple-wicket maiden late on Day 3, that all but sealed Australia’s win.

Remarkably, he finishes the summer behind Cummins, Lyon and Starc for total wickets with 11: but his meticulous line and length throughout gave him an average of just 20, well ahead of the latter two.

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