Kohli: Bowlers should embrace extra workload
Marsh axed by Australia in preference for Khawaja
Pakistan blew away a huge opportunity to take a commanding first-innings lead against New Zealand in the series-deciding third Test yesterday. But as the sun went down, the hosts took two quick wickets to regain a slight edge.
New Zealand, at stumps on day three, were reduced to 26 for 2 in their second innings, still trailing Pakistan’s first innings total by 48 runs with eight wickets remaining.
Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson, whose innings will be the key, was on an unbeaten 14 along with nightwatchman Will Somerville on one as Jeet Raval and Tom Latham were sent packing by Shaheen Afridi and Yasir Shah, respectively.
Earlier Pakistan, replying to New Zealand’s first innings total of 274, were bowled out for 348, but only after Azhar Ali smashed 134 and Asad Shafiq scored 104.
“We will be trying to get them out as early as possible because batting here in the fourth innings is always tough,” said Shafiq, who was involved in a 201-run fourth-wicket partnership with Ali before New Zealand clawed their way back with seven wickets for 62 runs and reducing the lead to just 72. We will try to get some breakthrough early tomorrow and make sure we have a small target to chase.”
Ali slammed his 15th century and Shafiq his 12th to end their century drought as New Zealand chased the leather for one full session and for little over an hour without any success.
Ready to fill void
The duo gave indication that as senior players they are now ready to fill the void left by Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan.
They have been getting a lot of flak for not shouldering the responsibility in the middle order. Shafiq, more so, because he has time and again thrown away his wicket after getting decent starts.
However, in the crucial series decider in the capital, they gave clear evidence of having overcome
Fall of wickets:
1-0, 2-17, 3-85, 4-286, 5-304, 6-312, 7-333, 8-346, 9-347.
T. Southee 25-5-56-1, T. Boult 26-766-2, C. de Grandhomme 13-2-36-0, A. Patel 35-5-100-2, W. Somerville 36-8-75-4
Bowling: New Zealand 2nd innings:
J. Raval lbw b Afridi 0 T. Latham c Sohail b Yasir 10 K. Williamson not out 14 W. Somerville not out 1 (lb1) 1 (for two in 14 overs) 26 Hasan 4-3-2-0, S Afridi 3-0-11-1, Y Shah 4-1-5-1, B Asif 3-0-7-0.
Extras Total Bowling:
that inconsistent phase. The duo showed immense patience on a track that was slow and needed plenty of restraint.
“I was not converting my starts into big scores,” said Shafiq. “Today the team needed a big score and me too. I’m happy that I managed to do that. There was a responsibility that after Younis and Misbah’s departure I and Azhar needed to play a role and play a big innings. That was always playing on my mind to play a big innings after getting a good start. I didn’t want to throw away my wicket. The focus was to contribute whenever possible.”
Shafiq and Ali took the team to lunch, 50 runs short of New Zealand’s first-innings total of 274. Somerville finally got the breakthrough with the wicket of Ali — finding Patel at short fine leg attempting a sweep.
Safiq also followed shortly after this ton — leg before to a tossed up delivery from Ajaz Patel and Pakistan were reduced to 304 for 5. Pakistan seem to have a habit of converting debutants into stars overnight. If Patel had taken the limelight in the first Test on debut with his five-wicket haul, then off-spinner Somerville hogged the spotlight on his maiden Test with 4 for 75. Pakistan offered very little resistance once the Ali-Shafiq stand had ended and the team lost their last seven wickets for 62 runs.
Babar Azam dragged a delivery onto his stumps and skipper Sarfraz Ahmad could do very little with the tail as Pakistan lost their last three wickets for a mere two runs.
“The wickets are a bit slower and a bit more challenging here,” said Somerville. “We had to bowl a bit faster on the wicket to challenge them to defend a bit more, which is hard on the shoulder but mixing it a bit to get the batsmen off-guard.
Somerville said he hoped his team can play a long game on day four. “We are two down already,” he added. “We hope we can try to score as many runs as we can. The last time we played we defended 170 or something. It’s not easy to chase here, so, it was a good toss for us to have won.”
The Indian bowling attack, rated as the most balanced in recent years, will have its task cut in all-rounder Hardik Pandya’s absence but the additional workload on hard Australian wickets shouldn’t be perceived as “burden”, said skipper Virat Kohli.
Pandya is currently recuperating from a back injury and many pundits believed that the all-rounder suited Australian conditions.
The Indian skipper agreed that four-man attack, led by Ishant Sharma, will have to share those extra overs among themselves, a cushion that allrounder Pandya would have given. “Losing the all-rounder obviously has an impact,” said Kohli on the eve of the first Test against Australia in Adelaide. “I mean every side would like to have a fast-bowling allrounder, which we don’t have right now with Hardik injured. That obviously is a great luxury to have for any side.
“We don’t, so we have to go with best possible combination. Again, the workload on guys who will play in the absence of an all-rounder will be high but that is something that has already been discussed.”
The hard bouncy tracks and big grounds could test a bowler’s strength and stamina, but the skipper believes that his bowlers won’t treat it as an adversity but a challenge.
“They should look forward to that and not think of it as a burden or something which is going to be tough,” said Kohli. “Because at the international level, things are tough. So, we will just have to embrace that and make something out of the resources that we have at present and try to put in the performances that the team expects from the players.
“I don’t see Hardik’s absence as a major issue because in Australia you still have to bowl really well even if you are an all-rounder. To contain the batsmen is always a challenge here.”
What Kohli has found heartening is that none of the members of the bowling unit are aiming at personal glory but are committed to the team strategy of delivering good sessions. “No one is going out ■
there gunning for a six-wicket haul for himself, if it means bowling eight good overs in a spot and getting a wicket for the team, they are ready to do that,” he said.
Speaking about the opposition bowling attack, Kohli is looking for showing positive intent against Nathan Lyon, considered by many as the best off-spinner of his time.
“He understands the pace of the wicket, the bounce,” said Kohli. “He hits the bat harder and quicker than any other spinner that I have faced in Australia. You have to be at your best against guys like Nathan and their bowling attack.
“We just have to back our game and show that we are confident of our skill sets and guys have to find ways to play different bowlers accordingly.”
Meanwhile, Australia sprang a surprise by axing vice-captain Mitch Marsh yesterday for the first Test, as Usman Khawaja’s return was confirmed despite the shock of his brother’s arrest.
Batsmen Travis Head and Peter Handscomb were preferred to the all-rounder, piling more pressure on the bowlers in what are forecast to be scorching conditions, while Marcus Harris will make his debut as opener.
Captain Tim Paine said the omission of Marsh, one of Australia’s two vice-skippers along with Josh Hazlewood, was due to a lack of consistency and he would benefit from returning to Sheffield Shield cricket to find form again.
“Mitch has not been as consistent as he would like and we would like,” said Paine, after the all-rounder endured lean tours of South Africa and the UAE, where they played Pakistan.
“We know the talent that Mitch has and we know that most likely at some stage in this series we will need him.”