“He might not belong to the ‘fast and furious’ breed of Pakistani bowlers that the world is accustomed to. But he is surely becoming Pakistan’s go-to bowler in Tests with his ‘Slow and Steady’ approach”
Pakistan put themselves in the driver’s seat after posting 482 runs on the board in their first innings. However, Australia came roaring back in the match as they went unhurt with 137 runs on the board without any loss at Lunch on Day 3. Both of the Australian openers in Usman Khawaja and debutant Aaron Finch had scored their individual fifties and had the Pakistani bowlers under the pump.
Pakistan was searching for answers. Apart from Khawaja’s missed stumping chance of Yasir Shah’s bowling earlier in the innings, the duo’s opening stand was absolutely flawless. In these circumstances, Pakistan needed a hero who could turn the table and bring them back into the match. And they got that hero as they went on to the field after lunch.
From 137/0, Australia went on to be bowled out for just 202 runs as they lost their last 9 wickets for just 60 runs. The wrecker-in-chief was none other than the debutant off-spin bowling all-rounder Bilal Asif, who claimed six wickets giving away just 36 runs. Apart from the openers, none of the other Australian batsmen seemed like having answers to the questions which Asif raised with his deliveries. That was truly one wonderful spell that bamboozled everyone.
However, his performance kind of overshadowed the wily Mohammad Abbas, who not only registered bowling figures of 4/29 but also came up with the most crucial breakthroughs in the match. While Wahab Riaz, the only pacer in the team other than Abbas, bowled inconsistent line and lengths throughout his spell in the morning session, it was Abbas who kept things tight and under control from the other end.
Abbas isn’t as fast as Riaz but his biggest strength is his slow and steady approach coupled with his ability to swing and seam the ball in most unfavourable conditions. And when all the chips were down, it was Abbas who saved the day for Pakistan once again.
He dismissed Finch shortly after Lunch with a delivery that nipped back in from an uncomfortable length. Finch couldn’t keep it down and Asad Shafiq took a superb catch, just inches away from the ground, at short mid on. Thus, the partnership that was threatening to take the game away from Pakistan had finally been broken.
Abbas had opened the floodgates and Asif cashed in on the opportunity as he dismissed Shaun Marsh, Khawaja, Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne in quick succession, thus reducing Australia to 171/5 in a span of five overs. Mitchell Marsh and Tim Paine tried to resurrect the innings as they tried to settle down.
They looked quite comfortable against Asif and other bowlers after facing a few deliveries. It looked like a comeback was on the cards as the partnership had now lasted 50 deliveries. But Abbas did what he does best once again. He tricked Marsh with a delivery that came back in after pitching. The umpire had no hesitation in giving his decision in favour of Abbas as he trapped Marsh plumb in front of the stumps. That delivery broke their vigil that lasted nearly 10 overs.
Moreover, he didn’t allow any of the Australian tail-enders to get away with any sort of quick runs. After Asif dismissed Paine in the very next over to Marsh’s dismissal, Abbas claimed the wickets of Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle in quick succession. He got the better of Starc with a beautiful out-swinger that kissed the edge off his bat and went straight into the big gloves of skipper Sarfraz Ahmed behind the wickets. Siddle was out in a similar fashion as that of Marsh as Abbas trapped him plumb in front of the stumps with a delivery that nipped back in once again.
In all of his 19 overs, he gave away just 29 runs at an economy rate of 1.52 and bowled 9 maiden overs as well. That sums up the discipline and consistency with which he bowled on that pitch that was quite slow and had almost nothing exciting for pacers. He worked tirelessly throughout his spell with patience and determination and reaped the rewards at the end.
His career might be just 9 Test matches old right now but he has had a great impact on Pakistan’s bowling unit in this limited time period. After picking up 15 wickets in his debut series against the Windies at an average of 19.20, he went on to pick 10 wickets in England in two Tests at an average of 14.20. Although he wasn’t as effective against Sri Lanka in the previous series in UAE, he has shown great adaptability with his improved bowling approach in this innings.
He might not belong to the ‘fast and furious’ breed of Pakistani bowlers that the world is accustomed to. But he is surely becoming Pakistan’s go-to bowler in Tests with his ‘Slow and Steady’ approach.