Australia v Pakistan Third Test
Tuesday January 3rd 10:30am AEDT
After securing a dramatic victory on a manic last day in Melbourne, Australia will be looking to inflict a clean-sweep on Pakistan when they clash in the third test at the SCG, starting on Tuesday.
Losing the toss and fielding first, the Aussies spent the best part of the first three days of the Melbourne test battling both the elements and a solidified Pakistan batting unit who picked up from where they left off from their admirable fourth innings chase in Brisbane. Despite the best efforts of Josh Hazlewood (3/50) and Jackson Bird (3/113), the visitors overcame constant interruptions to post an impressive 9/433 declared.
When they finally got to the crease on day three, the hosts wasted no time in overhauling the sizeable deficit, led by a stunning 144 off just 143 balls from opener David Warner. Warner received excellent support from the classy Usman Khawaja who fell just three short of a sixth test ton, before Australia’s unstoppable skipper Steve Smith took over. Smith pounded the Pakistani attack into the dirt with an unbeaten 165, sharing in a 92-run stand with the consistent Peter Handscomb (54), before putting on a further 154 in quick time with Mitchell Starc who smashed seven sixes on his way to a frenetic 84 off just 91 balls.
That allowed Australia to declare at 8/624 just prior to lunch on the fifth day and from there they exerted enough pressure to cause Pakistan to fall in a heap, knocking them over for just 163 to claim an unlikely win. Starc backed up his efforts with the bat to claim 4/36, while off-spinner Nathan Lyon enjoyed a return to form with 3/33, running through the Pakistani middle-order just prior to tea. Despite that performance, Lyon is not assured of his spot in Sydney, with fellow twirler Steve O’Keefe added to the squad in place of fringe seamer Chadd Sayers. Nic Maddinson has also paid the price for failing to grasp his opportunity at this level, with either Hilton Cartwright or Ashton Agar to come in at number six and provide Smith with additional overs in the field.
It all started so promisingly at the MCG for Pakistan with opener Azhar Ali’s superb unbeaten 205 the driving force behind their considerable first innings total. Asad Shafiq followed up his brilliant knock in Brisbane with an elegant 50, while fast-bowler Sohail Khan took the old-fashioned long-handle in belting 65 off as many balls, including four huge sixes. Sadly for Sohail and the rest of the visitors’ attack they could not find their groove with the ball and their inability to take wickets was compounded by a lack of control which allowed Australia to score at 4.39 runs an over.
Leg-spinner Yasir Shah continued his tough tour with the ugly figures of 3/207 off 41 overs, while left-arm firebrand Wahab Riaz was also expensive, leaking 147 from his 32 overs whilst picking up only two scalps. The only bowler to concede less than four runs an over was the luckless Mohammad Amir (0/91 off 33 overs) who beat the bat frequently but was left frustrated by his own lack of fortune as well as his teammates’ shortcomings.
Nevertheless after threatening to chase down a world record fourth innings total in Brisbane, the Pakistanis should have had few troubles surviving less than a full day on what was still a good pitch, but they were gripped by familiar demons and capitulated in spectacular fashion. Azhar dug in again for 43 off 112 balls, while ‘keeper-batsman Sarfraz Ahmed also showed some resolve by scoring 43, but after displaying so much application at the Gabba, Pakistan’s tail wilted as they lost their last four wickets in the space of seven overs. Captain Misbah ul-Haq added to his woeful tour with twin failures and has hinted that this could be his last test match before heading into retirement. The merry-go-round of Pakistani pace bowlers could also continue with Imran Khan pushing for inclusion ahead of either Sohail or Wahab.
Sydney Cricket Ground
The SCG has historically produced a test match pitch that is good for batting with only two sides bowled out for less than 300 in the first or second innings over the last four tests here. In the Sheffield Shield this season the surface has taken plenty of spin, with slow bowlers capturing 55% of all wickets to fall. It’s also worth noting that Australia have lost only one of their past 15 tests at the SCG.
- Australia have won six of their past nine tests at home.
- Australia have lost only one of their past 15 tests at the SCG.
- Australia have won only two of their past five dead rubbers.
- Pakistan have now lost their last five tests.
- Pakistan have also lost six of their past seven away tests.
- Pakistan have won only one of their past five dead rubbers.
Australia are more-or-less the same price to claim victory as they were in Melbourne with the draw again considered the next most likely result ahead of a consolation win for Pakistan.
While their bowlers lacked penetration early in the piece, one has to admire Australia’s ruthlessness in putting Pakistan to the sword on day five. Furthermore their complete dominance with the bat against a skilled, if somewhat out of sorts, attack shows that they have put earlier collapses on home soil behind them and with a new found resolve I wouldn’t want to be opposing the hosts here.
For Pakistan it was another Jekyll and Hyde performance with the bat, mixing notable positivity and application with tentative flakiness and incompetence. However the primary reason why I could not back the visitors is due to their sloppiness with the ball and in the field, where they seem incapable of stopping the likes of Smith, Khawaja and Handscomb not just from occupying the crease, but also scoring at a healthy rate.
That leaves the draw which shapes as an interesting proposition and one that might not seem all that attractive on face value given the fact these sides still managed a result at the MCG despite all the time lost to inclement weather. However that does not preclude the draw from trading very low again, especially with more showers forecast for Sydney.
The pace at which Australia score their runs is not optimal for the draw, however the market does not always see it this way so if the Aussies bat first and rack up a big score then the draw price should contract. The biggest risk in backing the draw is if Pakistan bat first and replicate their efforts in the third innings at Melbourne and first innings at Brisbane, where they were rolled over inside 55 overs. However Pakistan batting first also represents the most upside for the draw price, as if they can show the resolve they’ve displayed in the fourth innings at the Gabba and first innings at the MCG, then the odds for the draw will head swiftly south.
When weighing risk and reward I cannot go past an initial back of the draw, however given the way Pakistan succumbed on day five in Melbourne, as well as their flimsy record in dead-rubbers I would suggest looking to trade out when the odds do move in the right direction.
BACK -TO – LAY The Draw at $5.20 or bigger for 1 unit (trade out at $3.00 or better).