Every Aussie rated from second Test vs Pakistan: Captain Fantastic! Cummins’ perfect game, Carey defies critics
It wasn’t without a scare, but Australia have recorded a 16th consecutive Test victory over Pakistan on home soil, overcoming a gallant resistance by the tourists to win by 79 runs late on Day 4.
And there was one man who was more responsible for the triumph than anyone else – Patrick James Cummins.
The skipper was utterly irresistible with the ball in one of his best ever performances, claiming a second career ten-wicket haul – and first since January 2019 – to run through the visitors in both innings, with crucial breakthroughs by the bucketload.
Mitchell Marsh’s batting heroics, Alex Carey’s doughty second-innings resistance and a statistics-defying showing from Josh Hazlewood were all telling contributions as well… but on the other hand, Travis Head endured what might have been his worst ever match in Australian colours.
Here are The Roar’s player ratings for the second Test.
David Warner – 4
Off the back of a spectacular performance in Perth to set up Australia’s win, the retiring opener’s final Test at the MCG was a disappointing one.
A scratchy 38 in the first innings – though he did see the Aussies safely to the stroke of lunch without the loss of a wicket – was lucky to be that many after he was shockingly spared by Abdullah Shafique at slip; while in the second, his ugly dismissal dragging a pull shot onto his own stumps summed up a dreadful early collapse that saw Pakistan roar back into the match.
A far cry from his double-hundred in last year’s Boxing Day Test, Warner will be hoping his Test swansong in Sydney is more fruitful.
Usman Khawaja – 4
So accustomed have we become to Khawaja excellence in his Test renaissance that his second-innings duck – just his second in the last two years – came as a shock, and sparked a disastrous Australian collapse against some inspired Pakistan new-ball bowling.
A gritty first-innings 42 was more typical of the left-hander’s class, but he’ll be disappointed in a soft dismissal after battling his way through a tricky opening session.
Marnus Labuschagne – 6
The MCG is not a happy hunting ground for Australia’s first drop – his average across five Tests at the venue (30) is lower than Mitchell Starc’s (30.5).
Top-scored in the first innings with a 63 that nevertheless felt much less fluent than at his best, while he was one of the four Australian wickets to fall in rapid succession to begin the second, strangled down the leg side for 4 off Shaheen Shah Afridi.
He was, however, excellent in the field as always.
Steve Smith – 6
That Smith ends 2023 with an average of 42 in what has been deemed a down year for him is a sign of the impossible standards the champion has set for himself over the years.
There’s no doubt the 34-year old is struggling to dominate bowling attacks like in days of old, but while his timing was a constant issue and he never looked set, a bloody-minded 50 in the second innings helped stave off Australia’s early collapse and, along with Mitchell Marsh, steer them towards safety.
He remains a safe pair of hands at second slip, too – notable considering Pakistan’s horror time of it in the cordon.
Travis Head – 2
Head’s haul of 17 runs across his two innings at the MCG is his equal-lowest in any Test where he has batted twice – yikes.
Fell in familiar fashion in the first innings as a loose drive gifted catching practice to second slip; the second showcased his other weakness, as an attempted whip to leg first ball saw him play all around a late-swinging Mir Hamza ball that rattled his stumps.
Thankfully, Marsh’s form has meant less reliance on Head to play match-turning counterattacks these days.
Mitchell Marsh – 8.5
Player of the match in Perth, Marsh was even more crucial to Australia’s fortunes at the MCG, as his golden second coming in Test cricket continues.
Since being recalled mid-Ashes series, the Western Australian has averaged 67.5; but it’s not just his average that is turning heads, but his breathtaking scoring power that can turn the momentum of an innings in an instant.
While given an early life by another Shafique howler, a second-innings 96 rescued Australia from the brink of calamity, and he was unlucky to miss out on becoming the first Marsh to record a Boxing Day century.
Was seldom used with the ball as the three main quicks and Nathan Lyon took up the brunt of the attack, but took a brilliant catch late on Day 4 to help wrap up the Pakistan tail.
Alex Carey (wk) – 6.5
It won’t be enough to completely silence the doubters, but Carey’s resilient 53 in the second innings helped Australia add 75 to their total from the tail, which proved crucial.
You can safely ignore the byes, most of which were rearing deliveries well out of his reach: the South Australian remains the best gloveman in the country, with his smart stumping off Lyon to end Pakistan’s first innings the highlight of another near faultless match.
Mitchell Starc – 5.5
The hardest hit of the quicks by Pakistan’s extra attacking flair after a Perth go-slow, Starc went at above four runs an over in both innings at the MCG, and was never allowed to settle by the tourists.
Wicketless in the first innings, his pace and bounce was good enough to winkle out Shafique and Saud Shakeel in the second, before returning to take the last two Pakistan wickets within two balls to ensure some reward for effort (and a four-wicket haul).
A punchy Starc tailend innings would have been handy for the Aussies, but with a pair of 9s he was never allowed to swing the willow to any effect.
Pat Cummins (c) – 10
Cummins’ love affair with the MCG reached a new high in 2023 – he now has 35 wickets in just seven matches at the hallowed venue, with four five-wicket hauls and a princely bowling average of just 17.
Pakistan would have won without the skipper’s magic in both innings to record a second career ten-wicket haul. With the tourists 1/124 on Day 2, he produced a spectacular caught-and-bowled to make the crucial breakthrough, then clean bowled Babar Azam with a beauty in his next over.
Next morning, a sharp bit of captaincy saw him lure Mohammad Rizwan into a trap, before bowling Hassan Ali to complete his five-for.
Even better the second time around, Cummins time and again made the crucial breakthrough for Australia, ending Shan Masood’s counterattack and later removing Rizwan again in controversial fashion – but you couldn’t deny the ball was a pearler.
There could be no other choice for player of the match honours, or for the Johnny Mullagh Medal – but was it Cummins’ best performance in an already all-time great career?
Nathan Lyon – 5.5
A pair of late first-innings wickets made his figures look well and truly respectable, but in truth, it’s been a long time since Lyon looked as vulnerable on home soil as he did at the MCG.
Pakistan’s batters, Shan Masood especially, made good on their pre-series promise to target the off-spinner, the result Lyon going at more than four runs an over across the Test.
He would get some measure of revenge by getting Masood to sky a catch in the first innings, but with figures of 0/74 in Pakistan’s second innings at nearly 4.5 runs an over, it fell to the quicks and Cummins in particular to get the job done.
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Josh Hazlewood – 6.5
What’s that old saying about lies, damned lies and statistics?
While he’d pick up just two wickets for the match, Hazlewood was consistently Australia’s second-best bowler at the MCG behind Cummins, and was unlucky to not claim more scalps.
The highlight was a fearsome spell mid-afternoon on Day 4 to peg Pakistan back just when their run chase was truly motoring; the seed which castled Babar attracted all the headlines, but a five-over stint conceding just five runs around the breakthrough was equally impressive.