Late-day DRAMA after Aussies remove furious Pakistani in DRS controversy to shatter hopes of famous win
24 years ago, Pakistan’s hopes of a remarkable Test victory in Australia were dealt a hammer blow via umpiring controversy – and history may have been repeated at the MCG near the close of a gripping Day 4.
In this instance, replace Wasim Akram with Australian captain Pat Cummins and Justin Langer with Pakistan wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan – only where Langer had failed to be given out off a blatant edge in Hobart all those years ago, this time, an equally contentious decision would see the visitors again stung.
Given out on-field by Michael Gough, third umpire Richard Illingworth ruled, after a lengthy deliberation, that a vicious Cummins bouncer had flicked Rizwan’s glove wristband en route to Alex Carey.
An apparent spike on Hot Spot, plus original replays of the ball, seemed to confirm the decision – but a furious Rizwan’s reaction to being given out, gesturing at a red welt on his forearm higher up than his wristband, would suggest otherwise.
“All the replays I saw, I didn’t feel with certainty that it had [hit the wristband],” former great Adam Gilchrist – at the other end when Langer was reprieved – said on Fox Cricket.
“I think if it’s taken that many looks and that long a time [to make a decision], there’s probably got to be a cut-off point.”
However, fellow commentator Michael Vaughan was adamant the correct decision had been made.
“I think there’s enough [evidence] there. I think it comes straight off the wristband,” Vaughan said.
Rizwan’s departure, ending a 57-run stand with Salman Ali Agha that had taken Pakistan to within 98 runs of the target, would prove the match-turning moment as a short ball onslaught from Cummins and Mitchell Starc wrapped up the tail in within 26 balls to end an extended final session.
Cummins claimed a caught-and-bowled after bouncing Aamer Jamal, before having Shaheen Shah Afridi caught at short leg for a second five-wicket haul in an outstanding match.
Starc then returned to end Salman’s resistance on 50 via a superb diving catch from Mitchell Marsh at third man, before another bouncer had last man in Mir Hamza fending to a lunging Smith at slip and complete a 79-run victory that looked destined to be much, much closer.
In the end, the visitors were left to rue the horror drops at slip from Abdullah Shafique on Days 1 and 3, which handed David Warner and Marsh crucial lives; had even one of those chances been taken, a famous victory could well have been pulled off.
Still, having reached 5/219 before Rizwan’s dismissal, Pakistan gave themselves every chance to secure a first Test win in Australia in 28 years, and can head to the SCG for the New Year’s Test with heads held high.
Having made good on their pre-match promise to take the fight to Australia’s attack with a punchy counterattack, scoring at 3.51 runs per over in the chase and inflicting particular damage on Nathan Lyon (0/84 off 19 overs), the tourists put up the strongest fight the hosts have faced on home soil since India’s famous series victory three years ago.
With Australia resuming on 6/187 with a lead of 241, Carey’s critics-defying 53, ensuring Pakistan were unable to fire out the Aussie tail as they’d have hoped in the first session, came at a crucial time for the wicketkeeper, having endured a torrid time with the bat in all formats since his infamous stumping of Jonny Bairstow during the Ashes.
He’d add 22 with Starc, 28 with Cummins, 12 with Lyon and 13 more with Hazlewood before falling as the last man out, trapped plumb in front looking to work Mir Hamza to leg for the left-armer’s fourth wicket.
Controversy had threatened to reign earlier when Cummins was adjudged caught behind off Aamer Jamal, with a review confirming the on-field call due to an Ultra-edge spike despite a lack of Hot-Spot evidence and an apparent gap between bat and ball – the first of two DRS dramas for the day.
“I’m not sure how you can give that out,” said Isa Guha on Fox Cricket as a bemused Cummins was given his marching orders.
“It was given out on field, there is a little spike as it goes past, but you can clearly see there was daylight between bat and ball. The glimmer is a noise – that could be anything.”
Thanks to Carey, a total of 262 still presented Pakistan with needing 317 for victory, the second-highest run chase ever in an MCG Test and biggest in 94 years – a task that looked beyond them when Shafique’s nightmare Test ended edging Starc to Usman Khawaja at slip in the nine overs before lunch.
But just as he had in the first innings, Masood, who had implored his team to bat with more intent going into the match, led by example with a swashbuckling innings, turning the tables on Australia’s formidable bowling attack.
Spared early when he successfully reviewed a Lyon LBW that ball-tracker found to be going over the stumps, the captain used his feet to the spinner and carved anything wide offered by the quicks.
Masood added 61 with Babar Azam after Imam-ul-Haq was trapped LBW by Cummins, his 71-ball 60 giving the visitors hope of a memorable comeback win.
While he’d die by the sword, flashing Cummins to slip for the captain’s seventh wicket of the match, Babar, having endured a frustrating start to the series, showcased his exceptional talent to pick up the gauntlet and continue the fight.
At 3/129, having scored at nearly four an over, the match was very much afoot: but when Josh Hazlewood produced a contender for ball of the match, finding movement off the seam to pierce the gap between Babar’s bat and pad en route to off stump, an Australian win seemed inevitable.
Shakeel’s wicket, edging an attempted cut behind off Starc, left Pakistan still needing 155; Rizwan and Salman, though, were not about to die wondering.
Together, the pair ensured, for the first time in years, Australia’s pace quartet were put on the back foot – their partnership first taking Pakistan past 200, then to a half-century stand, and then – as brows began to furrow in the MCG stands – the runs required into double figures.
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When a nerveless Shakeel spectacularly uppercut Cummins over the slips cordon for four, the impossible began to look distinctly plausible – but the captain, with a little help from the DRS, would have the final say.