Who’d have thunk it – Pakistan gave us our first proper fight at home in years!
The Boxing Day contest has come and gone, and while we depart the ‘G with another Aussie victory, how bloody good was that?!
A test match with twists, turns and drama. Actual drama.
A pitch that offered up oodles of challenges for both bat and ball, and above all, a great contest that saw this Australia side prove, yet again, that they can find a way to win when many moments saw Pakistan have the match within their grasp.
Pakistan’s team director Mohammad Hafeez made the bold game post match that the better side lost.
“Our batting intent was better, our bowling was hitting in the right areas. Yes, we made some mistakes that we lost the game [because of], but as a team, I believe that there were a lot of positives within the team to win the game.”
While there were certainly moments Pakistan were better, his response hides the true issue with this statement: they weren’t better when it counted most: with moments of critical fielding errors and the capitulation of their batting.
Not all is lost for Pakistan – especially the element of surprise!
It was a spotty performance from the visitors – moments of greatness from the side overshadowed by moments like sundries being the second highest scorer for the Australians in the first innings… oh, and did we mention Abdullah Shafique’s two drops in the slips? God awful.
However, most Aussie fans will happily take a compelling, interesting contest over a foregone conclusion that sees their team win by many umpteen runs. One word to Pakistan, if any of the players are reading this: more!
Pakistan were unpredictable, aggressive with the ball, and looked hungry. Their decision to put Australia in to bat was a questionable one, albeit bold, given until this point they’d struggled to find a way to get their talented bowling side firing.
Fired, they did, and they would’ve been even more on top if catches went to hand. Until Steve Smith and Mitchell Marsh steadied the ship, the second innings was borderline embarrassing for the hosts. You’d be panicking if you came in at 4/16 in a park cricket match!
Batting remains the key problem for the visitors, as even despite the encouraging form of the likes of Babar Azam and Saud Shakeel coming into the series, their inability to take on the bowling strengths of Starc, Hazlewood, Lyon and Cummins remains the key battle they aren’t winning.
If coming into Sydney, keep us guessing! Make choices that are risky, but could be enormous if pulled off and executed well. The series might be lost, but a chance to make their own history with a win on Aussie soil for the first time since 1995 is not outside the realm of possibility.
The law of averages suggest Azam and Shakeel will eventually come good at some point.
At the very least, it gives a bloody good contest for us fans to watch!
Did it feel special? Maybe it was
That’s just it isn’t it? It felt special, because it felt like Pakistan finally showed up to play, and the Aussies had to work for the win. But maybe it feels special because this hasn’t happened in a while. Several years at least.
The entire discussion around the cricket calendar is a raging inferno on the internet, with talk about how much the shorter version of the game seems to have Test cricket on the run.
Dating back to July 2022, excluding this current Australian series, Pakistan have only played nine test matches, in stark odds to Australia, who have played 17. West Indies have only played eight test matches.
If we are serious about test matches as the pinnacle event of the summer of cricket, there has been to be a discussion around investing more in teams who actually can play the longer form of the game. Maybe it’s the case that Australia has to do it themselves.
No wonder these games feel one-sided so often, maybe there’s a reason for it?
By comparison, the test match series involving teams who play a lot more of that cricket are much more telling and compelling, such as the case of the Proteas winning strongly against India in Centurion.
It’s great entertainment when there’s an actual competition, when a team turns up to play. Pakistan has proven that with this performance. But if it’s the case they’ll get only nine more of these matches in the next 18 months before they turn up on Australian shores again, we’ll get more of the same. If anything, the gap may widen.
There is only one true king of the MCG
As 3:50pm snuck up at the MCG, a special feeling of love, respect and honour came over the crowd as Victorians tipped their hats in their thousands to honour Warnie.
The first test match at this ground following his death was always going to be an emotional one, and the decision for the Shane Warne Legacy Foundation to encourage 23,000 Australians to get a free heart test during the test match gave a special feeling to the day.
Making any amendments to an institution like the Boxing Day Test is something fans take very seriously. But if anyone at Cricket Australia is reading this, commemorating Victoria’s greatest player in some form should become part of the festivities.
Like the joy that is the Pink Test in Sydney and day three being a celebration of Jane McGrath, the feelings the Shane Warne Legacy Foundation evoked during Boxing Day isn’t just about cricket, it’s about why we all follow the game: because it brings us all together, and that it’s fun.
In that comes a need to always check up on one another, and in that regard, using a day on Boxing Day to not only celebrate Warnie but bring awareness to the disease that took him from us seems like an opportunity to further reinforce on the test cricket calendar.
It’s important to acknowledge when governing bodies do something fantastic to engage and connect with fans, and this partnership for this test match was truly something special.