Smith most relieved af­ter Aus­tralia’s great es­cape

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

The re­lief was pal­pa­ble in all of Aus­tralia’s play­ers yes­ter­day af­ter they sur­vived a huge scare to de­feat Pak­istan by 39 runs in the first test, but none would have felt it more than cap­tain Steve Smith.

A bun­dle of ner­vous en­ergy at the best of times, Smith grew in­creas­ingly fid­gety as man-of-the-match Asad Shafiq and Yasir Shah marched quickly to­ward an im­prob­a­ble vic­tory tar­get of 490 in the first daynight test at the Gabba.

Well might he have. Smith dropped two sim­ple catches in the slips late on day four, the se­cond let­ting Shafiq, Pak­istan’s last spe­cial­ist bats­man, off the hook when he was on 72. Shafiq sur­vived to stumps af­ter rais­ing an im­pres­sive 100 and lifted Pak­istan’s hopes of clos­ing out a fa­mous vic­tory be­fore be­ing dis­missed for 137 by a pearl of a short-pitched de­liv­ery by pace­man Mitchell Starc.

That Pak­istan were able to get so close to com­plet­ing a record run chase took the gloss off an­other out­stand­ing bat­ting ef­fort by Smith, who top-scored for Aus­tralia with 130 in the first in­nings and backed it up with 63 in the se­cond.

He also wrapped up the match in some style, throw­ing down the stumps from the slips to run out Yasir af­ter the stocky legspin­ner in­ex­pli­ca­bly wan­dered out of his crease af­ter a mis-hit be­hind the wicket. But those fine ef­forts may be drowned out in the de­bate as to how Aus­tralia found them­selves in such a per­ilous po­si­tion on day five in the first place.

Pak­istan were skit­tled for 142 early on day three, 88 runs short of avoid­ing the fol­low-on, but Smith chose not to en­force it and in­stead opted to bat the tourists out of the game. With vic­tory se­cured, it would be un­fair to say the tac­tic back­fired but Mis­bah-ul-Haq’s side may take more out of the match, hav­ing won back be­lief in their bat­ting and re­silience, and re­stored con­fi­dence lost by a 2-0 thrash­ing in New Zealand.

The fi­nal to­tal of 450 was Pak­istan’s high­est ever fourth in­nings tally, the high­est ever in Aus­tralia and the equal third high­est of all time.

Aus­tralia, how­ever, seemed plagued by doubt and in­er­tia on the fi­nal day at the Gabba and Smith’s ini­tially con­ser­va­tive field set­tings were roasted by for­mer cap­tains Michael Clarke and Mark Taylor as they called the game on tele­vi­sion.

“The Aus­tralian cap­tain’s tac­tics this morn­ing has been noth­ing short of ridicu­lous,” tweeted for­mer Eng­land skip­per Michael Vaughan.

Smith may un­der­take ex­tra catch­ing prac­tice dur­ing train­ing be­fore the Box­ing Day (Dec. 26) test but had no re­grets about not en­forc­ing the fol­low-on. “I think I would go the same plan,” he said. “Our bowlers had bowled a lot. I’m just happy we got over the line.” — Reuters

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