“Sarfraz Ahmed did just what any boxer would have done under such circumstances. He started counterattacking in style instead of putting the anchor down. He gave a punch in return for a punch and the Australians were taken aback”
A counterpunch is the last resort a boxer is left to, when he has his back against the ropes, while facing an aggressive opponent landing one punch after another on him. When your defence is not good enough to negate the attacking charge led by the opposition, counterpunches turn out to be the best measure to get yourself back into the match.
At 57/5, Pakistan were staring down the barrel with half of their side back into the pavilion. Australia had them completely on the mat. Nathan Lyon’s off-spin turned out to be too good for Pakistan as they went from 57/1 to 57/5 in a space of just two overs. Except for Fakhar Zaman, the debutant, each and every batsman from the top and middle order looked all at sea against Lyon. Zaman watched from one end as Australia kept demolishing his team at the other. He was desperate for a partner who could stay with him at the crease; someone who could see off the period with him and get them to safety.
Walks in Sarfraz Ahmed..
Pakistan needed a captain’s knock from him to rise up from this situation. Also, Sarfraz was looking to end his drought as he hadn’t gone past the score of fifty in his last seven innings. Pakistan had their backs against the ropes just like a boxer under attack from his opponent. Australia gave Ahmed a taste of their blows too as he walked out to bat.
He was tentative in the beginning, playing every delivery with extreme caution and determination. And they went to lunch without losing any more wickets, adding 20 more runs to their total. Ahmed was unbeaten on 8 runs after facing 15 deliveries, each of which threatened to send him back to the pavilion.
However, he walked out to bat after lunch with a completely different mindset. He did just what any boxer would have done under such circumstances. He started counterattacking in style instead of putting the anchor down. He gave a punch in return for a punch and the Australians were taken aback.
It was the first delivery of third over after lunch, the 30th of the innings, bowled by the same bowler who was the cause of all their problems. Ahmed danced down the track and launched the ball high over the forward square leg. It had the height but not the power to take it to the boundary. The sweeper cover fielder came across to field the ball and kept it down to a couple of runs. It looked like a desperate measure to get out of the situation. He could have considered changing his approach considering the risks associated. But he had already decided to play in that gear.
The very next delivery, he danced down the track once again and launched the ball over the mid-wicket fielder. It reached the boundary on two bounces and he had made his intentions clear. He saw off the rest of the deliveries in that over and took a single off the last delivery to keep the strike. What followed afterwards changed the momentum of the game completely.
A couple of late-cuts, a leg glance and another couple of lofted cover drives fetched him 17 runs off Peter Siddle’s over. His strike rate, which stood at 71.5 in the previous over, shot straight up to 118.5. His intentions were clear. He was positive and he was taking the bull on by its horns.
He continued to stay positive after that over and focused on milking the bowling more than going for the boundaries. By the time he brought up his fifty at a run-a-ball, Pakistan’s total of 149/5 looked somewhat decent but the threat of another collapse was always there. However, the skipper, along with Zaman, was determined not to offer any sort of chances to the Australians.
Although they did that successfully until the penultimate over before tea, Zaman perished on a score of 94 being trapped lbw by Marnus Labuschagne, just at the stroke of tea. The onus was on Ahmed—batting on 78 runs off 95 deliveries—again to rally along with the tail. He had a period of 15 minutes during tea to calm his nerves down.
When Pakistan began their innings at 204/6 after tea, Sarfraz knew what he needed to do. He had been in this situation on numerous occasions before. And this was just another one of those. But Labuschagne had other ideas as he kept asking questions to the batsmen with his leg spin.
Ahmed, though, fought valiantly but finally succumbed on identical scores as Zaman. He tried to go for a six on the last delivery of the 73rd over but got tricked by the leg-break. As a result, he sliced it up in the air and Siddle took a comfortable catch at cover, even though he hobbled for a couple of times. Labuschagne had the last laugh but nobody can deny how important his innings turned out for Pakistan.
His innings of 94 not only gave Pakistan a chance to fight in the match but it also lifted their spirit up. At stumps, they had reduced Australia to 20/2 in reply to their first innings total of 282. When they begin proceedings tomorrow morning, Pakistan will have the upper hand. And they need to credit their skipper for taking them to such a position beforehand.