Pak vs Aus 2022 – 1st Test – ‘The shot Warner played was one of impatience’

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The offspinner ended a 156-run stand at a time when the Australia opener offered no real chances

It’s hard to put any spin on it. Not the ball (though that, too), but the fact this Test won’t rank among Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium’s finest moments. The cricket hasn’t been especially engaging – even if the batters might disagree; 747 runs have been scored, with six wickets falling across three days.
On a day when Australia raced away to 271 – hovering around four an over for much of the day – there was limited respite for bowling. The day started brightly enough for Pakistan with Shaheen Afridi and Naseem Shah comfortably outperforming their Australian counterparts with the new ball. Both Usman Khawaja and David Warner were cagey against the new ball. A few edges flew through the slips, one from Khawaja went straight to Fawad Alam at gully, who put down a bit of a sitter. In a game where wickets have been as scarce as hen’s teeth, it was an unforgivable error. The pressure bubble popped, and Australia’s openers took over.
So it was perhaps understandable, with just two wickets falling until bad light put a halt to play about 20 overs early, that Pakistan offspinner Sajid Khan dedicated much of his brief post-match presser gushing about how he’d set up Warner. With the batter on 68 and having offered no real chances, Warner went back to a full one and saw it sneak through the gate, ending a 156-run stand.

“The wicket is slow,” Sajid said. “I’ve used some variations but I try and set the batter up before deploying them. I bowled 27 overs, and the shot Warner played was one of impatience. I set Warner up and he kept playing back foot to full balls. So I went even fuller, and he made one mistake and I got a wicket there. David Warner’s wicket is big, and he’s a very good player.”

It’s standard enough, the game of cat and mouse between spinner and batter. But curiously enough, it was the slowness of the wicket that got Sajid that wicket. With the batters having enough time to go back foot to everything, Warner began to push his limits, just as Sajid tested his. By the time he was dismissed, he was playing back to a ball that, had he stepped out of his crease, could almost have been a half-volley, and eventually paid the price.

“The new ball is coming, we’re in the game and we’ll try and get a result.”

Sajid Khan

It was perhaps just a small footnote to a Test that would have been a footnote in itself were it not for the historic nature of the occasion. With inclement weather set to have a final say – it began raining heavily shortly after stumps were called, with puddles forming across the ground.

The prospect of a result is remote in the extreme, though Sajid insisted Pakistan were still in with a shot. “There are very few overs to the new ball,” he said. “It’ll grip and there are some footmarks. If any of these got out, [Travis] Head and [Alex] Carey come in; both are left-handers so we should find it easier to get them out. We’re in this game because a lot of runs are left. Nauman is turning the ball now, too.”

The clue, though, lay perhaps in some of the things he didn’t say, or didn’t mean to say. The Test has been so devoid of incident Sajid briefly got his days confused, believing tomorrow was day three. (If that were the case, the smart money would still be on a draw, for what it’s worth). But Sajid also said, three times in five minutes, that the new ball was due, suggesting perhaps best Pakistan’s hopes lie in a quick, explosive burst from Shaheen and Naseem.

“The wicket is such that they played well. The wicket was a bit suitable to spin but it’s good for batting. The new ball is coming, we’re in the game and we’ll try and get a result. It’s a bit more suitable for spinners, and the new ball is coming soon, too. If we get spin on one end and pace on the other, that could work.”

It’s hard to lay any blame upon Sajid, who will bowl worse and get more wickets – he arguably bowled no better than he did today in Mirpur, where he walked away with 12 wickets and the Player of the Match award. But on a day that even the most ardent fan would struggle to recall by the time the series is done, Sajid sounds like he’s going home playing the Warner wicket in his mind’s eye on a loop. He’ll get many more such scalps if he can maintain this level. Just don’t expect too many to come in the next couple of days.

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000

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