Australia v Pakistan Tests
Smith's Australians secure clean sweep
Hazlewood, O'Keefe claim three apiece as hosts thrash Pakistan by 220 runs at SCG
Andrew Ramsey at the SCG
7 January 2017, 08:38 PM AEST
A series that was supposed to deliver a stern challenge to Steve Smith’s fresh band of Baggy Green wearers was instead crowned as a blemish-free romp on a celebratory afternoon in Sydney.
Australia’s march to the 3-0 clean sweep over a lacklustre Pakistan they had publicly targeted and clinically executed from the moment David Warner took guard on Tuesday morning was formally realised at 3.08pm.
When tailender Imran Khan skewed the second ball with the second new ball to gully, prompting a group victory huddle reminiscent of the joy that erupted in a similar spot following Australia’s 5-0 Ashes triumph over England three years earlier.
That result being as unforeseen as the dominance Smith’s men exhibited over Pakistan, having been humbled by South Africa in the weeks earlier when Australian cricket was deemed to be in free-fall.
The final victory margin was 220 runs as Pakistan never threatened their target of 465, although the result was scarcely in doubt for much of the afternoon.
But a day that might well have been a perfunctory end point to a lopsided contest when Pakistan lost three key wickets inside the first hour instead took on a party feel that ended a tumultuous Test summer on a unmistakable note of optimism.
Partly driven by the decision to charge a nominal admission fee, resulting in a crowd of 17,583 and a new record total attendance for a Test against Pakistan at the SCG.
And enhanced by the throng’s embrace of substitute fielder Mickey Edwards from local grade club Manly, whose long blond locks that streamed behind him as he loped across the outfield lent him an air of 70s glam rocker more so than Australian cricketer.
The tourists entered the ultimate day of the Australian Test summer knowing that no team had scored more than 411 in the fourth innings at the SCG.
And even that was not sufficient to save England from defeat by almost 200 runs when they managed that tally against Herbie Collins’ team in the 1924-25 Ashes summer.
Furthermore, the highest successful fourth innings run chase at a ground where batting historically becomes increasingly fraught as the game and the pitch wears on was Australia’s 2-288 against South Africa in Ricky Ponting’s 100th Test more than a decade ago.
So a draw loomed as the best-case scenario for Pakistan, and that unlikelihood rested heavily on the shoulders of their outstanding batter of the tour – opener Azhar Ali – and the backbone of their first innings, veteran Younis Khan.
Consequently, the script was effectively finalised when both fell inside the first hour of play under welcome if unfamiliarly bright Sydney sun.
Azhar a victim of the pitch’s varying pace, when he bunted a ball that held up on him gently back to bowler Josh Hazlewood in the first over of the morning.
And Younis succumbed to the sort of misjudgement that can afflict a player in his 40th year who has spent all but 80 minutes of the Test match’s playing time out on the field.
Charging down the track at a slower, loopier delivery from Nathan Lyon that tempted him to lift it over the leg side in-field as he done successfully during his epic 175no on previous days, but which on this occasion drew a top edge that soared no further than mid-on.
Interspersed in those vital strikes was the wicket of Babar Azam, the nominal number three who averaged more than 60 during his maiden Test series in England last year but finished a forgettable Australian sojourn with that return pared back to 11 and a bit.
His inadequate attempt to keep out a Hazlewood in-dipper that pinned him in front of leg stump having scored nine ensuring he failed to reach 25 in his six innings in the pivotal batting role in this series.
Perhaps he might have learned from the man who batted at number three in his place, the ever-combative Yasir Shah who was sent in as nightwatchman the previous evening and showed more pluck than many of his specialist batting counterparts.
Having been belted around Brisbane, Melbourne and then Sydney with ball in hand, and limping through the final days of the Test campaign with a hamstring problem, Yasir could have been feasibly excused for turning up his toes when asked to fill the role of a batsman as well.
But he defied all that Australia could hurl at him for more than two hours, scoring just 13 in the process and narrowly being avoided run out on six when Hilton Cartwright’s ping at the stumps while lying prone on the ground slid agonisingly by the stumps.
Even when he was dismissed – smartly plucked low at second slip by substitute fielder Jackson Bird who has revealed himself to be a talented addition to the cordon – Yasir refused to accept it was over and defiantly stood his ground.
Until television replays confirmed he had no grounds on which to demur.
But once again the bottom half of an opponent’s batting proved tougher to dismantle than the pointy end for Australia’s leg weary bowlers.
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq finally found the acumen and application that had so conspicuously eluded him in previous innings of this campaign, and found an ally in Asad Shafiq to frustrate the hosts for almost an hour.
Then, when Shafiq dragged a full, fast ball from Mitchell Starc in aiming an ambitious cover drive, Misbah and keeper Sarfraz Ahmed continued to hang tough.
But after almost three hours at the crease that yielded just 38 runs for the man who still holds the record for the fastest half-century scored in a Test (off 21 balls, against Australia in vastly different conditions and circumstances) Misbah once more self-destructed.
Just as he had on that curious final day in Melbourne, and in the first innings of this match when impetuosity saw him hit the ball high into the air.
The end then came at pace.
Wahab Riaz adjudged to have faintly feathered a catch behind, Mohammad Amir ran himself out chasing runs at a time when they were not needed, and Imran edging to Bird at gully.
Leaving Sarfraz, considered by some to be Pakistan’s next Test skipper should Misbah call it quits after a miserable tour, unbeaten on 72 and the only batter to reach 50 in an innings that – rather like the tourists’ entire series – failed to generate any momentum or mojo.