There’s no stopping Cummins
The Australian skipper can do no wrong at the moment. The paceman conquered everything in 2023 and seems to be in no mood of slowing down in 2024. Pat Cummins ended last year with two five-wicket hauls in Melbourne and has started 2024 with another one, making it three in a row for the 30-year-old. Cummins became the first Australian to take three consecutive five-fers in Test cricket since Nathan Lyon in 2017.
Pakistan won the toss and opted to bat first in the third and final Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday (January 3). The surface didn’t have too much pace on offer but that was never going to stop Cummins from making an impact. The right-arm seamer finished with figures of 5/61 in 18 overs, dismissing Babar Azam, Saud Shakeel, Mohammad Rizwan, Sajid Khan and Hasan Ali.
Babar (26) was his first victim, getting him once again with an inswinger. Meanwhile, Shakeel was caught behind off a delivery that held its line after pitching on length just outside off. Pakistan were five down with less than 100 runs on the board but that’s when Rizwan and Agha Salman added 94 runs for the sixth wicket. Once again, Cummins broke the partnership, getting rid of Rizwan. He then took two more to complete yet another five-wicket haul.
With not much help on offer, Cummins once again showed his class. While he operated at an economy of 3.4, Mitchell Starc (4.7), Josh Hazlewood (4.3) and Nathan Lyon (4.3) leaked runs at more than four runs per over. The way Pakistan’s lower middle-order got going in the last two sessions, Australia could have found themselves in a lot more trouble if not for this performance by their leader.
Duck for Pakistan openers
Pakistan’s opening pair isn’t even averaging half of what Australian openers David Warner and Usman Khawaja are averaging together in this series. The opening combination of Abdullah Shafique and Imam-Ul-Haq started the series on a decent note, adding 74 runs in Perth. However, they could only manage partnerships of 2, 34 and 8 in the next three innings. As a result, Pakistan decided to drop Imam and brought in debutant Saim Ayub.
But things went from bad to worse for the visitors, with both Shafique and Ayub failing even to get off the mark. Pakistan lost both their openers inside two overs. Shafique was the first to go, needlessly chasing Starc’s wide delivery and edging it to Steven Smith at second slip. Meanwhile, Ayub was undone by Hazlewood’s away-swinger from the middle stump, nicking it to the wicketkeeper. The two became the first openers to get out for a duck in the same innings of a Test match at the SCG.
Rizwan, Salman show some fight
The visitors were reeling at 96/5 when Rizwan and Salman joined hands in the 30th over. The surface was also starting to get better and both batters decided to counter-attack, adding 94 runs for the sixth wicket off just 101 deliveries. Rizwan, in particular, looked positive from the word go and was well supported by Salman who took some time to settle in.
Rizwan was 40 off 67 deliveries at one stage before smashing 48 off the next 36. The wicketkeeper-batter didn’t allow Lyon to settle in, using his trademark sweep shot to great effect. He scored 26 off 28 deliveries against the offspinner and transferred some pressure back on Australia. The right-hander now averages close to 50 Down Under, apart from operating at more than 40 in England and New Zealand.
Rizwan slammed 10 fours and two maximums and looked set to get his third Test century, but it wasn’t meant to be, with Cummins making sure of that. The Australian captain went short at him and Rizwan went for the pull, only to top-edge it to the fielder at long leg. Meanwhile, Salman also played his part, bringing up his second consecutive fifty, but couldn’t convert it into a big score. The 30-year-old hit eight boundaries in his 67-ball 53 before becoming Starc’s second victim.
Jamal proves his worth with the bat
Pakistan might be struggling to compete with Australia in this series but Aamer Jamal seems to be making quite an impression. The fast-bowling all-rounder started the series with a six wicket-haul and then five more wickets in the second Test, including an unbeaten knock of 33. Jamal showed everyone what he is capable of with the bat in Melbourne but no one would have expected him to smoke 82 off 97 deliveries, that too batting at No. 9.
Pakistan lost their ninth wickets with 227 runs on the board and it looked like they would get bundled out for well below 250. Mir Hamza, who doesn’t have a single 40-plus score in first-class cricket, walked into bat at No. 11 and what followed next was something spectacular. Jamal was swinging at everything at the start of his innings and it felt like he could get out anytime. Instead of targeting the stumps and getting his wicket, Australian bowlers kept bowling short and allowed Jamal to settle in. And then he made them pay.
Jamal smashed nine fours and four maximums, which included a six off a reverse sweep, and put on 86 runs - the highest 10th-wicket partnership in Tests at the SCG since 1985. The 27-year-old showed a lot of smartness and ensured he retained most of the strike. Hamza, at the other end, kept blocking everything, while Jamal took the attack to every Australian bowler.
The two did more than enough to frustrate Australia and took Pakistan past 300, all this after they were reduced to 96/5. Jamal was finally caught at long-on,18 short of his maiden century. But with this knock, the all-rounder has proved everyone he can bat well above No. 9.
Australia vs Pakistan: A series of faltering batsmanship
Another day, another embarrassing batting collapse for Pakistan
Aamer Jamal is excellent but Pakistan's slip catching is not
Ball comes back in, Babar Azam goes out
It happens just like that for Pat Cummins
Pat Cummins helps Australia dominate Pakistan in MCG Test
Imam-ul-Haq, Abdullah Shafique stand firm to keep Australia in check
Aamer Jamal arrives at the Test arena with a bang
Mohammad Rizwan continues to reign supreme in 2023