When the Aussies declared their second innings at dinner on day three, little would they have known of the counter punch that Pakistan was about to give them. Unfazed by the mammoth target of 490, the visitors fought incredibly hard and came agonisingly close to pulling off what could have been the greatest heist in the game. On a tense day five, Australia rode on two moments of magic to eke out a tense 39-run win in Brisbane.
First among those was the brutal delivery from Mitchell Starc that rose sharply and sent back a well set Asad Shafiq. Shortly afterwards, skipper Steven Smith delivered the cherry on top to help his country maintain their dominant record at the Gabba.
At the start of the 145th over, Pakistan needed only 43 more runs for ecstasy. With Shafiq batting on 137 and Yasir Shah offering solid support at the other end, Mitchell Starc had his work cut out. After conceding a single off the first ball, the left-arm pacer rose to the occasion and produced the ultimate breakthrough.
In walked a nervous Rahat Ali as the buoyant Australians lay in anticipation. However, the tail-ender capitalised on a wayward delivery to get off the strike. The pressure began to tell on Yasir‘s body language and the leg-spinner soon attempted an almighty heave in desperation which drew a reaction of agony from commentator Waqar Younis.
A Test match, that kept everyone glued to their seats, ended in a rather anti-climactic fashion. After an outside edge fell short of the slip cordon, Yasir glanced at the non-striker’s end for an improbable single in order to try and retain the strike for the next over. However, in his split second of indecision, he started to meander off the crease without looking back.
Smith, who was aware of the proceedings, waited for the perfect moment to unleash a quick throw. Fortunately for him as well as the Australians, he found his target before Yasir could scramble back in time. The on-field umpires did not even bother to send it upstairs even as the players themselves knew that the match was over. Eventually, replays showed that the batsman had indeed been caught short of his crease.
Even though Australia emerged victorious by a narrow margin, Pakistan’s effort was highly commendable. To put things in context, no team had previously scored more than 370 in the fourth-innings at this venue. Overall, there have only been two higher team totals ever in the fourth innings of a Test match than their 450.
During the post-match presentation, a visibly relived Smith felt, “(I have) lost all my fingernails. (It was) some game of cricket wasn't it. Asad (Shafiq) played an unbelievable innings, it was hard work and (a) lot of credit to the way they played. Our quicks kept coming back, that wicket showed the class of Starcy. You've always got hope, one wicket away. They didn't give us a sniff until the end. (It was) nice to hit 'em (the stumps), not sure what Yasir was doing there.”
The thrilling opening Test has now set the stage for an enthralling series with the next match scheduled to begin on Boxing Day at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground.