Rizwan, who scored an unbeaten 104 in Pakistan’s second innings after Babar Azam‘s majestic 196 put Pakistan in control, was dropped on 91 by Khawaja. Australia fell short of a win by three wickets on the final day.
Many former cricketers, including Mark Taylor and Wasim Akram slammed the pitches which have been prepared in Pakistan for this series.
The pitch in Rawalpindi, where the first Test was played was rated below-average by ICC Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle. This match saw as many as 1187 runs being scored and only 14 wickets fell.
According to the ICC website, in his report, Madugalle said: “The character of the pitch hardly changed over the course of five days and that there has been no deterioration apart from the bounce getting slightly lower. The pitch did not have a great deal of pace and bounce in it for the seamers nor assisted the spinners as the match progressed. In my view this does not represent an even contest between bat and ball. Therefore, in keeping with the ICC guidelines I rate this pitch as below average.”
Ahead of the third and final Test in Lahore, which is on currently, Australia interim Head Coach Andrew McDonald spoke to TimesofIndia.com about the pitches in Pakistan on what is Australia’s first tour of the country since 1998, Babar Azam’s brilliant knock in the second Test, his team’s performance in the on-going series and also about Rohit Sharma, the Indian captain now, across all formats.
A lot of former cricketers, including Mark Taylor and Wasim Akram, criticised the pitches for the Test series so far. Were you disappointed by the pitches prepared by the PCB? What would your plan of action be to counter a similar pitch in Lahore?
We play on the pitches that we turn up and see. Our job is to be able to navigate through, try to find 20 wickets, and score enough runs on those surfaces. This is as simple as we keep it. In the last game, it gave us an opportunity to win the game. If we had taken those opportunities, then it would have given a result. Unfortunately, we didn’t. But the positive thing is that the style of cricket we are playing and creating those opportunities. That’s all we can do. In terms of criticising the pitch, that’s up to them. But it’s the first thing from our mind that we have to prepare ourselves for whatever the circumstances may be within the games. And yes, the pitch certainly wasn’t an excuse for us not being able to get over the line. In the last match, the guys did an incredible job. They created enough opportunities to put ourselves in that winning position.
Australian captain Pat Cummins (right) speaks with coach Andrew McDonald. (AFP Photo)
At any point in time did you think that you would lose the Test, especially when Babar Azam was at the crease? Did Usman Khawaja’s dropped catch off Mohd Rizwan cost Australia the match?
I don’t think you can pinpoint one exact moment that costs a side the match. It’s across five days. Small moments right across the game can take the game in different directions. So, I wouldn’t be pinning the result or non-result on the back of one specific moment. In terms of Babar’s knock, I think the run rate that we set across the 170 odd overs that we had to bowl was probably just out of reach. So yeah, it would have taken something extraordinary on top of the already extraordinary in terms of his innings to be able to track down those runs. And, we had quite aggressive fields for long periods of time. It was purely about wickets for us and not controlling the tempo of the game at any stage.
Babar Azam – where would you rate him as a Test player among the other greats of this generation like Virat Kohli, Joe Root and Steve Smith?
Babar is young and his Test career is fresh at the moment. So, the other players probably played out a bit more longevity. So, I would say that it’s only a matter of time before he enters into that conversation. And there’s probably one that you are missing out there in terms of not playing at the moment with an elbow injury, it has to be Kane Williamson. Williamson would probably have to be in that group. So, it’s maybe fab 4 or 5 or 6. Babar is a very good batsman. He is not an emerging talent but he’s definitely arrived. And, we’ve also got Marnus Labuschagne as well. We’ve got some great batters out there at the moment. Babar is right up there with them. Unfortunately, we ran into him in the last Test match.
Rohit Sharma has an unbeaten Test record so far as a captain. How would you rate his captaincy skills vis a vis those of Virat Kohli?
I haven’t played under Rohit. I did have the (good) fortune of playing under Virat (at RCB in IPL). So, I can’t really comment on Rohit’s style. But if he’s at a 100% record at this stage, then he’s a good captain. If by wins and losses we’re going to judge captains then he’s a very good captain.
Rohit Sharma. (ANI Photo)
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