“The reason for Abbas’ brilliant bowling on the day was his keenness to stick to a good line as well as a good length”
Australia may have been mightily pleased with their dominance on the first day of the second Test but they were brought crashing down to earth by an inspired Mohammad Abbas spell that had fierce written all over it. Chasing a first innings target of just above 280, Australia had set their hopes up for a first Test win in Asia since 2011 but their hopes were jostled by an 80mph bowler who has been making waves ever since he set foot in the white flannels just over a year ago.
Just 10 games into his career, Abbas has already scripted a jaw-dropping average of 16.89, which is by far the best by any seamer since the 1880s. His 5/33 in the second innings, to go with a match-haul of 7 wickets in the first game highlight his unerring consistency and his willingness to adapt to the match situation. Pakistan are a side that has boasted of some of the best fast bowlers in world cricket, who have set their mark even in the toughest conditions, and it was no surprise then that on a surface where the quicks were hardly getting assistance, Abbas pitched in with his best.
If the bowler prospered due to his reverse swing bowling at Dubai, it was his seam movement on a track that had plenty in it for the batsman that stood out. After dismissing Usman Khawaja and nightwatchman Peter Siddle on the first day to leave Australia in a precarious situation heading into Day 2, Abbas returned to worry the rivals with a nagging line, questioning their technique and skills. Australia could very well have played softly and evaded his threats, but by attacking shots that should have been left alone and playing with the bat in front of the pad, they scripted their own doom.
“Having watched Mohammad Abbas now for over a year, I have decided he would get me out every time within about 6 balls,” quipped former England skipper Michael Vaughan on Twitter after his devastating spell.
Aaron Finch was worked up by a plethora of balls that jagged back into the opener after he had started the day with three boundaries. However, deliveries that came back in off the seam kept the opener quiet and his spell enabled Bilal Asif to latch on to the white-ball expert when he was on 39. Shaun Marsh was tentative and his footwork left much to be desired. He tried to poke at a ball that should have not been tampered with, but against such quality bowling, even the best are prone to succumb.
Travis Head was much more intent and he looked set for a long haul, however, he was troubled by the angles created by the 27-year-old, eventually pushing a ball inside its line to edge a simple catch. His current strike-rate after Head’s wicket in the series was 31.2 – by far the best by any fast bowler in Tests in UAE since 2002. His consistent bowling also ensures that he has the lowest economy rate, lowest average and lowest strike-rate by any quick in the series – which also has Mitchell Starc.
The reason for Abbas’ brilliant bowling on the day was his keenness to stick to a good line as well as a good length. 35% of his deliveries could have hit the stumps, which only shows how much he troubled the batsman, who should have been accustomed to batting against bowlers of his calibre. With his career-best haul, Abbas went past 50 Test wickets, at an average of 16.89, which is the best among Test bowlers since 2010.
Finch summed up the reasons for Abbas’ terrific form by stating, “The simplicity of his plan to just bowl at the stumps with nice straight fields, limit your scoring, that’s been his real strength. I think at times we’ve done that really well for periods and at times we’ve leaked a few. Our plans have still been good and that’s a little bit of execution at times. I don’t think when you’ve got guys who are a little bit quicker than him and looking for a little more out of the wicket – I think that can happen, you go searching a touch more. He’s just very simple, very good, but nothing we can’t overcome in the second dig”.
The second outing, as Finch said, will be crucial but with an in-form Abbas raring to go, Australia will do well to be on their toes.