First Test, Day 5: Hauritz warms the cockles of an old non-spinning-offie bowler’s heart

by Patrick O’Keeffe

History indicates that chasing 422 on a fifth day wicket is a difficult prospect. Nevertheless, with Pakistan well placed at stumps, against a young bowling attack which has struggled to take 20 wickets in recent times, there is the sense that this could be an enthralling day of cricket.

Due to a long period spent on a bus yesterday, I had only seen about three balls of the previous days play. For about ten hours, I wondered what might have been happening at the MCG. How many runs would Pakistan be chasing in the fourth innings? Would Shane Watson finally make a ton? Would Abdul Rauf be called up into the gully, only to drop Watson on 99, allowing him to scamper through for a single? From inside the cramped confines of the bus, I could only wonder.

From this cricketing blackout, I soon discovered that the match was well set up for a tense finish. The experienced Mohammad Yousuf strode out to bat with the teen prodigy, Umar Akmal. Pakistan require 252 runs, with 7 wickets in hand and three sessions to play. This is definitely within the realms of possibility.

The often maligned Mitchell Johnson opens the attack for Australia. Yousuf works a single, bringing Akmal on strike. Johnson entices Akmal to poke at a ball, which he edges through to Haddin. Misbah Ul Haq arrives at the wicket. First ball, he plays at a ball angled across the right hander, the ball kisses the edge of the bat and Haddin takes the catch. Kamran Akmal is now at the wicket. A ball which is angled across the right hander misses the bat by a coat of varnish. The over is completed. The game is all but over. Johnson has missed out on a test hat trick by a whisker. Johnson has the most test wickets for 2009, yet has had a rollercoaster year. He was phenomenal in South Africa. The Ashes was, for the most part, a disaster. His action does have some flaws. He has put together some fairly ordinary spells in recent times and has struggled with his control. He appears to be a little self conscious and perhaps lacking in confidence. Despite all this, he gets batsmen out on a consistent basis.

Prior to the match, Andrew Hilditch commented on the inability of Nathan Hauritz to bowl his team to victory. I like Hauritz. Though I tend to like anyone who bowls off spin, particularly those who don’t often turn the ball. As a fellow exponent of the offie that doesn’t spin, I feel that we have something in common.

Hauritz appears to be bowling with a good deal of flight and bounce today. Such weapons are potentially as dangerous as a big turning of break. He has already bowled Iqbal through the gate in this innings. He encourages Kamran Akmal to charge down the wicket, who then misses a swipe and is stumped. The 17 year old Mohammad Aamer departs after one ball. The unfortunate Abdul Rauf strides out to face the second hat trick ball of an eventful morning. Fieldsman crowd the bat. Rauf has a flash at a well flighted ball, which safely lobs on the turf. No hat trick, but Hauritz has broken through.

Bollinger then gets through the brittle defences of Rauf. Pakistan end the session with 8 wickets down. All hope is lost. I stroll down to the local shops. It is hot. I am thinking of the 1988 series in Pakistan, where Australia was crushed by a strong Pakistan outfit. I remember seeing a summarised scorecard on the ABC news, showing that Australia had been defeated by an innings and plenty.

I return home to discover that the match is over. Yousuf, who has looked solid, is dismissed by Hauritz, who then finished off the match by picking up Ajmal. Hauritz has his first five wicket haul in Test cricket, and has surely secured his short term future in the team. While his bowling does look a little innocuous at times, his Test record is actually quite good. He takes his wickets at just over 30, has 41 scalps in his 11 appearances, and averages 23 with the bat. Those numbers are not bad, and there is no doubt that he is improving as a player.

Pakistan should welcome back Danesh Kaneria and Umar Gul for the Sydney Test, while there is a flicker of hope that Younis Khan will return. This will undoubtedly strengthen a Pakistan team which has played little Test cricket of late. Australia will be buoyed by their clinical performance on the fifth day. There is talk that we will see two spinners playing in Sydney. Surely one of those will be Hauritz, while the other could be a 20 year old who averages 75 in first class cricket. Should make for an interesting five days.

Comments

  1. Peter Schumacher says:

    75, is that all, I thought that he was supposed to be an (the) alternative spinner. And I implied that he couldn’t play. He can bat all right but can he really bowl? By the way really liked your report.

  2. Closely watched S.Smith take a four-fa in Hobart last night without doing much other than “landing” his stock ball. Batsmen just do not like facing leg-spin! What was most laughable? The commentators (B.Julien, D.Fleming, M.Waugh) attempting to credit Warney’s MCG nets session with Smith as the catalyst for the wickets.

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