ISLAMABAD : Former Pakistan test cricketers believed Brisbane’s tense day-night test match on Monday will be more remembered for Pakistan’s gallant fightback rather than Australia’s nervy 39-run victory.
“I don’t think Pakistan has lost it, it (the defeat) has given a new lease of life to Pakistan’s test cricket,” ex-test captain and wicketkeeper Rashid Latif told The Associated Press.
Man-of-the-Match Asad Shafiq defied all the odds and scored a resilient 137 as Pakistan was bowled out for 450, falling 40 runs short of Australia’s gigantic 490-run target.
Pakistan was teetering at 220-6 before tailenders Mohammad Amir (48), Yasir Shah (33) and Wahab Riaz (30) all shared half century stands with Shafiq to nearly pull off the highest winning run chase in test history.
“Unbelievable, and it shows test cricket is real cricket,” Latif said. “Brisbane will be more remembered for Asad Shafiq and the way Pakistan tailenders batted.”
Latif said the Gabba wicket didn’t break enough even on the fourth day, which suited Pakistan’s style of batting.
“The wicket eased out for batting which gave encouragement to Pakistan batsmen, but I was surprised that it didn’t break enough, which neutralized Australian offspinner Nathan Lyon.”
Shafiq’s gritty century which spanned over 5-1/2 hours was the highest score for a Pakistan batsman in the fourth innings of a test match outside Asia, beating Asif Iqbal’s 135 against the West Indies in 1976-77.
Latif said the remarkable fightback would immensely increase the confidence of Pakistan, going into the Boxing Day test in Melbourne and the third test in Sydney.
“Such performance boosts the confidence of any team and now I think Pakistan not only has a chance to equal the series, but they could even win it,” Latif said.
Like millions of other Pakistanis, legendary batsman Javed Miandad was also not expecting such a rearguard from Shafiq and Pakistan tailenders.
“Nobody could have expected Pakistan to come so close,” Miandad told AP.
“But our team is like that, we can be zero one day and suddenly heroes emerge the next day.”
Pakistan was bowled out for 142 in reply to Australia’s 429. The home team then chose not to enforce the follow-on, and declared its second innings at 202-5 for an overall lead of 489 runs.
Miandad said Australian captain Steve Smith tried to attack too much once they got the six wickets on the fourth day with Pakistan still needing 270 runs.
“They left too many open spaces and thought they could run through the tailenders quickly, but full marks to Shafiq, Amir and Wahab for capitalizing on wayward bowling.”
Outspoken Pakistan cricket critic Sikander Bakht also hailed Shafiq for his gritty effort and said the wickets in Melbourne and Sydney would suit Yasir Shah more. The leg-spinner could take only 3-174 in the two innings in Brisbane.
“I think Pakistan has a very good chance to even win the series now,” Bakht told a private news channel.
But Bakht said Pakistan could have been better off had the series started with a normal day test match instead of playing with the pink ball in a day-night test match.
“We got only one practice match and then all of a sudden we had this day-night test match. It’s not enough to get acclimatized to Australian conditions,” he said.
“I don’t know who had made this itinerary but it would have been better had the day-night test match came later in the series.”
Pakistan’s world cup winning captain Imran Khan, also hailed the team’s fightback.
“Great fightback by Pak in Brisbane led by gutsy Shafiq. There’s no shame in losing when team fights to the last ball. They have made us proud,” he tweeted.—AP