Had Pakistan, the World Twenty20 champions, been afforded just 20 overs to reach their victory target of 176 yesterday, it would most likely have proved a stroll in the Sydney sunshine. As it was, with a day-and-a-half at their disposal, their batsmen fretted and eventually succumbed to a 36-run defeat in a Test they had dominated for three days. Ricky Ponting, the victorious Australia captain, suggested afterwards "no one else in the world, other than probably all the blokes inside our room, thought we could win". Other than anyone with a passing knowledge of Pakistan's previous, perhaps. Their Test history has been dotted with the sort of capitulation they subsided to at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Long before the advent of the 20-over format, they had a reputation for spectacular collapses, yet Mohammad Yousuf, their captain, is certain the abridged game has had a negative effect on their five-day performances.
After a miserable defeat in the previous Test in Melbourne, Yousuf called for the Pakistan board to limit their T20 outings to "as little as possible". "No player knows how to stay at the wicket anymore," he reasoned in the lead-up to this game. As if to prove his point, he gave his own wicket away at the vital moment, with a rash drive from the off-spin of Nathan Hauritz as Australia scented victory in the final session. When Misbah-ul-Haq, the next most senior batsman in Pakistan's ranks, followed him back to the pavilion in the same over, chipping up a soft catch to point while attempting an injudicious cut off Hauritz, their fate was sealed. It was not solely the batsmen who were to blame. Kamran Akmal, the wicketkeeper who has been one of the stand-out players in Pakistan's march to the top of the 20-over game, had a nightmare with the gloves. He put down Mike Hussey three times behind the stumps off the leg-spin of Danish Kaneria. By his own high standards, Hussey had a lean run for the majority of 2009, and happily made the most of his string of reprieves. His unbeaten 134 set the platform, and victory was confirmed as Hauritz collected his best bowling figures, and just his second five-wicket haul in first-class cricket. Yousuf refused to condemn his keeper, saying: "Things like this happen in cricket. Kamran is always trying his best. "How can we afford to give him a rest? He is such a good batsman. He scored well in New Zealand and we need him here. "The best thing to do is to back your players when the going gets tough. Look at Ricky Ponting. He is getting support from every quarter even when he is not scoring many runs." Akmal was unable to give back what he owed his side, but his younger brother, Umar, tried his best to limit the damage. The 19-year-old rising star made 49, before miscuing the sort of drive which belongs only in the shortest format of the game, and was particularly unbecoming of a tense Test run-chase. Ponting had been widely chastised for his decision to bat first on a green wicket, yet it proved a wise choice by the end. "Turning up for the fourth day's play 80 runs ahead I think all of us in our changing room felt that if we could get 150 we were going to be right in the game," he said. "Where it ended up was a difficult number I think for Pakistan to look at and try to chase." firstname.lastname@example.org
Australia 127 & 381 Pakistan 331 & (second innings): I Farhat c Johnson b Bollinger 22 S Butt c Haddin b Johnson 21 F Iqbal c Haddin b Johnson 7 M Yousuf c and b Hauritz 19 U Akmal c Johnson b Bollinger 49 M-ul-Haq c Hussey b Hauritz 0 K Akmal c Haddin b Johnson 11 M Sami c Haddin b Hauritz 2 U Gul c Siddle b Hauritz 6 D Kaneria c Watson b Hauritz 0 M Asif not out 0 Extras (1nb, 1w) 2 Total: (38 overs) 139 Fall of wickets: 1-34 (Farhat), 2-50 (Iqbal), 3-51 (Butt), 4-77 (Yousuf), 5-77 (Haq), 6-103 (K Akmal), 7-133 (Sami), 8-133 (U Akmal), 9-135 (D Kaneria) Bowling: Doug Bollinger 12-3-32-2 (1w) Peter Siddle 4-1-27-0 Nathan Hauritz 12-1-53-5 (1nb) Mitchell Johnson 10-3-27-3