Warner’s epic 335 not out over­whelms Pak­istan be­fore Starc bursts visi­tors

Muscat Daily - - SPORTS -

Ade­laide, Aus­tralia - If the open­ing day was wretched for Pak­istan, the ad­jec­tives to de­scribe the sec­ond are best left un­printed. There was no hu­mil­i­a­tion spared, no skillset left un­ex­posed as Aus­tralia’s bats­men - led by David Warner’s epic un­beaten 335 - did what they liked to Pak­istan for the first half of the day, with the bowlers cut­ting in on the ac­tion in the fi­nal ses­sion.

Warner will grab to­mor­row’s head­lines, and ce­ment a place in Aus­tralian crick­et­ing folklore for his in­nings, be­com­ing the first triple cen­tu­rion in the Ade­laide Oval’s his­tory, and sur­pass­ing Don­ald Brad­man’s 334 which Mark Tay­lor equaled in 1998. That was when Tim Paine fi­nally took mercy on the hap­less visi­tors, call­ing his side in just as the crick­et­ing world was set­tling in to see a se­ri­ous chal­lenge to Brian Lara’s record 400 not out.

If that tempted you to de­cry the pitch a mun­dane road, the fi­nal ses­sion would have had you reach­ing for the emer­gency brake. Mitchell Starc was one wicket away from a five-fer, while Josh Ha­zle­wood and Pat Cum­mins swarmed all over Pak­istan early. Reg­u­lar break­throughs meant there was never any chance of a part­ner­ship build­ing that so much as hinted Pak­istan might chal­lenge Aus­tralia’s 589 enough to force them in to bat again at some point this Test. When it was time to wind up, Pak­istan were 493 runs be­hind, with the tail al­ready ex­posed. Babar Azam, pre­dictably, was the lone source of re­sis­tance from the other end, but when the um­pires called stumps, they might as well have been call­ing a halt to a box­ing match.

Pak­istan were still seven overs away from the new ball be­com­ing avail­able when the day be­gan, but the signs were omi­nous in that early half hour. In­stead of be­ing able to rein Aus­tralia in dur­ing that ini­tial spell, Yasir Shah and Iftikhar Ahmed op­er­ated in­ef­fec­tu­ally, with Aus­tralia pil­ing on 65 in nine overs of the old ball, scor­ing more freely than they had across the en­tirety of the first day. Any pres­sure they might have felt at the start was al­ready well off when the new pink ball was called for, and the records were quickly stack­ing up.

The 361-run part­ner­ship be­tween Warner and Mar­nus Labuschagn­e was the sec­ond­high­est sec­ond-wicket stand for Aus­tralia in Test cricket, with the pair join­ing an elite group to have scored 150 in con­sec­u­tive in­nings. By the time Sha­heen Afridi - again Pak­istan’s best bowler - cas­tled Labuschagn­e’s off­s­tump with a gen­uinely de­light­ful in­swinger, he had amassed 162. Aus­tralia were 2 for 369, with Steven Smith walk­ing in. Hardly a sight for sore bowl­ing shoul­ders.

Warner would con­tinue to bring up mile­stones. He reached 200 and cel­e­brated with the steel of a man only half­way through his jour­ney. Mo­ments later, it seemed, he was rais­ing his bat for 250, which is when he re­ally cut loose as Aus­tralia looked to wring ev­ery last run out of their in­nings. Pak­istan didn’t help them­selves when debu­tant Muham­mad Musa had Warner caught at fourth slip from a noball, the sec­ond time a Pak­istan debu­tant re­prieved Warner in this way this se­ries after Naseem Shah's over­step in Bris­bane.

Pak­istan’s bowl­ing might have been con­sis­tently list­less, but the ex­tent of Yasir’s night­mare may yet have ca­reer-af­fect­ing con­se­quences for him. His strug­gles in the south­ern hemi­sphere are well-doc­u­mented, par­tic­u­larly his record in Aus­tralia. But here it al­most seemed safer to have Iftikhar bowl­ing in­stead. He was, after all, ‘only’ go­ing at five per over, while Yasir con­ceded 197 in his 32 at more than a run-a-ball, un­able to keep him­self from drag­ging the ball down sev­eral times ev­ery over, or feed­ing them faith­fully into the left-han­ders’ hit­ting arcs. If, in these past three years, Yasir worked on how to man­age a game where wick­ets come at a pre­mium, it did not show to­day.

After Smith edged a wild hack, Warner and Matthew Wade com­bined for a breezy 99-run part­ner­ship which saw Warner bring up 300 with a pull off Mo­ham­mad Ab­bas - who still wasn’t tar­get­ing the stumps - and brought out a cel­e­bra­tion so emo­tive it moved his wife, sit­ting in the stands, to tears. After that he was even more un­con­fined, and when he took Ab­bas for 17 in an over, it re­ally ap­peared that 400 was go­ing to be given a shot. But when a sin­gle to ex­tra cover took him past 334 - to stand sec­ond be­hind Matthew Hay­den’s 380 for Aus­tralia - Paine emerged from the dress­ing room and called them in, a cue for Ade­laide to stand as one as its most pro­lific scorer walked off.

It is per­haps no co­in­ci­dence that was the pre­cise mo­ment when the wicket de­cided to change char­ac­ter as the lights took hold. Shan Ma­sood was given out in the first over, and though he had it over­turned, the break­through was never far away. Imam-ul Haq nicked off to Warner - who else? - in the slips in the fifth over. Sun­day might be af­fected by rain.

David Warner

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