All The Small Wins: The Perth Test
Does Pakistan know how to win a Test match in Australia? No, but Pakistan knows kindness. It knows friendship, and it knows love. It knows how to see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wildflower. How to hold infinity (instead of catches) in the palm of its hand and eternity in the preferred over-rate.
It has been the year of grand, juicy victories in cricket, but they have all unfortunately gone to one team. The rest of us, like England, and Pakistan, and England, have to do with moral wins, consolation prizes, the tiny little candies that don’t make it into any of the goody bags. But a win is a win is a win, and if we can collect some of the breadcrumbs, who is reality to stop us? Many would say that a 360-run defeat in the first Test of a tour that is only bound to get tougher cannot be read in any kind terms whatsoever.
But it would be unfair to ignore all the small wins we amassed over the four days:
- Let’s begin by counting our blessings. We managed a game where we played all four innings! And didn’t lose by one! We also batted almost as long as Australia, which is something our captain thinks is a win. Who am I to oppose my captain? We have an English-speaking captain, and sometimes, semantics and good press conferences trump trivial, nonsense things like “winning” and “playing well.”
- In the first Test, we successfully decolonized cricket by playing a brand of cricket completely antidotal to Bazball. Hardcore, attritional, under 2.5 an over batting – I dare you to call it ‘Pakball’ instead of ‘The Pakistan Way’, its rightful name, ever again. Still, we managed to be bowled out for 89 in the fourth innings, indicating that one need not use the master’s tools to be dismantled in a way similar to the master. We also whined significantly less after being penalized points for slow over-rate, even though it makes even less sense in this case, considering we saved a whole day by losing on the fourth. All this shows is that at the core of every loss is the moral victory of being better than England.
- Aamir Jamal took a 6-fer, which is not that small a win for a Pakistani pacer in Australia. The real win, however, is making the opposition the one to give a five-fer to a debutant rather than the other way around (which it usually is). We are notorious for being hospitable and charitable and good gift-givers – (we did let Nathan Lyon climb up to 500 Test wickets in the same match), so sometimes it feels nice to be on the other end, for the giver to take for once. And Gary reportedly did say that Rana, his five-hundredth scalp, was too nice to sledge, so who really won? The legend (who has now achieved one of the most coveted milestones in the sport) or the power of coordinated car-and-kurta sets?
- No centuries for Pakistan throughout the game, ensuring that no one in the Test side can be labeled a statpadder or a personal-milestone merchant. Even Aamir Jamal’s achievement was neutralized by Imam-ul-Haq’s five-run haul soon after, which took almost the same amount of time and effort. Under this new leadership, at the dawn of this new era for Pakistan cricket (which somehow resets itself before every bilateral series), it is important that the team stay united under one philosophy – if the Pakistan way dictates that they all play with a similar mediocrity, then so be it!
- Warner’s third-innings duck, though it may have done nothing for our chances or done anything to negate the damage of what he did in the first innings, but still. We got Warner for a duck. The sky is a little brighter, grass a little greener, and so on and so forth. However, a less ironic and significantly more bittersweet win is that this wicket is part of the fifteen we took in this match: two more than the total number of wickets Pakistan took when it toured Australia in 2019. What is more significant is that we did this with a half-cooked bowling attack with two debutants, which is perhaps only slightly better than our 2019 half-cooked bowling attack with two teenagers.
- Saud Shakeel became the first Test batter in the history of international cricket to score 20 or more runs in fifteen consecutive innings. This means that he had a score in the double digits in the fourth innings, being one of the only three batters to do so in this particular instance. This is all I will say about this particular win because when I look at the scorecard for too long, it does not make me feel very victorious anymore.
- Cricket matches usually consist of an assortment of players with specialized roles. We have heard of specialized batters, bowlers, and wicket-keepers. What the Perth Test gave us, however, is something new: the prospect of the specialized substitute fielder. It is certainly a niche, and it will require some carving, but Muhammad Rizwan cosplaying Superman to save a few extra runs on the field shows us that it is possible. I think for this particular win, we owe our gratitude to whoever decided Rizwan should not be in the starting XI – it shows that no matter how brainless a decision feels, the long-term well-being of Pakistan Cricket is always at the heart of it.
You know what they say – a lot of pain: small, microscopic gains. Or something like that. With two more Tests and ten more days of cricket (provided we play all of them) to go, who knows how many more small wins are in store for us? I predict that in the next few weeks, we will have a few high-impact 20-ball-40s, lots of discourse around intent, a renewal of the collective Strike Rate Police license, and, hopefully, no more injuries. Where are the wins in all of this, you ask? Well, good things come to those who retrospectively microanalyze things to feel better about themselves, and we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.