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Aamer Jamal is excellent but Pakistan's slip catching is not

article_imageTALKING POINTS
Last updated on 04 Jan 2024 | 06:45 AM
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Aamer Jamal is excellent but Pakistan's slip catching is not

Here are some of the talking points from the rain-truncated day two of the third and final Test in Sydney

Slippery slip cordon

Pakistan dropping catches is not a new story. It has been happening for ages, and this series has been no different. 

They have let go of quite a few chances, especially in the slip cordon. Abdullah Shafique dropped three catches at first slip in the first two Tests, costing Pakistan 132 runs. And we have not even talked about Khurram Shahzad and Shan Masood missing catches in front of the wicket. In total, those missed chances cost them more than 230 runs in the first two games.

So, any new culprit in the third Test? Yes, and it was the debutant Saim Ayub, who bagged a duck on day one. It was all gloomy in Sydney and Mir Hamza and Hasan Ali bowled with great control in the first hour of day two, not allowing Australian openers David Warner and Usman Khawaja to dictate terms. The two seamers gave away only 14 runs between them in 10 overs. 

The pressure was starting to build, and it felt like an opportunity was around the corner. Aamer Jamal, who was brought into the attack in the 14th over, created that opportunity in his very first over, but Ayub ended up making a mess of it. 

Warner pushed hard at a delivery pitched on the fourth stump and nicked it to the first slip. It was a regulation catch, and Ayub couldn’t hold on to it. Luckily, it didn’t cost Pakistan too much as Agha Salman dismissed Warner (68-ball 34) 10 overs and 14 runs later.

Aamer Jamal never stops trying

The 27-year-old has been the find of the series for Pakistan. The visitors might get whitewashed, but nobody can deny the fact that the fast-bowling all-rounder is here to stay. Australia have always been a difficult hunting ground for Pakistan, but to score 125 runs @ 31.25 and pick up 13 wickets @ 23.3 in your debut Test series is quite something. After smashing 82 off 97 deliveries from No. 9 in the first innings, Jamal bowled his heart out on day two.

While Hamza and Hasan bowled with great control, the two seamers didn’t have enough pace to trouble Australian batters on the slow SCG surface. The two constantly bowled around 130 KMPH, while Jamal brought in those extra 10 yards and bowled in the high 130s. He was unlucky to miss out on Warner’s wicket in his first over and ended his first spell of four overs with figures of 0/15.

With nothing much happening off the surface and Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne starting to look more and more comfortable, Masood once again gave the ball to Jamal in the 40th over, and the pacer responded with a wicket of Khawaja. The plan was simple: run in and bowl short, and that’s exactly what Jamal did. The right-armer went short to Khawaja, and the ball kept going down the leg with the angle. The left-handed opener went for the pull but overestimated the bounce ending up gloving the ball to the wicketkeeper. 

With well-set Khawaja (143-ball 47) back in the hut, this was Pakistan’s chance to attack Labuschagne and Steven Smith. Jamal wanted to bowl short and quick and had six fielders on the leg side - forward short leg, backward square leg, square leg, long leg, deep square leg and deep mid-wicket. Jamal even hurried Labuschagne with a couple of quick bouncers, asking him if he was “too quick” for him. However, before we could see more of this battle, it got a bit dark, and the players were asked to leave the field. Soon it started raining, and there was no play after that.     

Khawaja missing out on scoring big

2337 runs in 45 innings (since 2022) at an average of 58.42, studded with seven tons and 11 fifties, there is no denying that the left-handed Usman Khawaja has completely transformed his Test career in the last two years. In fact, no other batter has scored more runs than Khawaja in this period. However, he could have scored a LOT more. 

Since his 141 against England in Birmingham, Khawaja hasn’t hit a single century in 13 innings despite crossing the 40-run mark on eight occasions. Moreover, he has faced 34 or more deliveries in 11 of those 13 innings. Eight times, he has played 90-plus deliveries. Meaning the 37-year-old is throwing away his wicket after getting starts.  

All of his last 13 dismissals have come against pace, and has an average of 17 on deliveries pitched on a good length. Khawaja has got out seven times from that length. He is not someone who can take the game away from you with his strokeplay. He is someone who likes to bat long and only goes after bad deliveries. 

Hence, the key to keeping him quiet is to keep hitting that length and have patience, something that Pakistan bowlers have done well after the first Test.

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