The Demons of Oz
I hear my alarm, wake up around 4 AM, turn on my illegal stream (perks of living in an uncivilized country that doesn’t have cricket on TV), to find Yasir Shah bowling outside leg-stump to David Warner, spinning the ball even more down the legside, and getting hammered around all corners of huge grounds. Azhar Ali seems to turn the ball more than him, and his googly even looks more threatening.
Speaking of Azhar, he makes tons of runs in this series, with half-centuries or more in every match. He has been doing so for the whole year. At the MCG, he makes a beautiful double hundred, with straight drives worth the sacrificed sleep. Pakistan are so awful with the ball that Mitchell Starc pummels them for 7 sixes and 3 fours, but it seems like rain can give them a draw, and they could head into the more spinning Sydney conditions just 1–0 down. Except, this is Pakistan playing in Australia, and they collapse like a house of cards on the final day.
Azhar came into the team in the same year as Asad Shafiq, in 2010 – both trusted Misbah men. While the former made his name up the order, Shafiq was relegated to the only open spot in the batting order, one usually reserved for keepers or all-rounders, number 6. In England earlier that year, after Azhar began opening, Shafiq finally got his promotion and made a crucial century at 3. It seemed like the two sidekicks would now lead Pakistan’s batting from the top, but of course, a rookie batter by the name of Babar Azam was thrown into the number 3 spot in Australia of all places. And so Shafiq finds himself back at 6.
In the first Test, at the Gabba fortress, after three innings of Aussie dominance, with a target of 490, Shafiq scripts what feels like will be the biggest miracle in the history of Test cricket. From 220-6, he leads Pakistan towards the target in what feels like an absurd run of play, with Amir, Wahab, and Yasir looking so solid with the bat that a Pakistan win feels the more likely option. I wake up in excitement in the middle of the night on the last day. Except, this is Pakistan playing in Australia, and the meanest bouncer of Mitchell Starc’s career reminds Asad Shafiq that this is the Gabba, after all, and such things don’t happen here, not for Pakistan.
Three years later, I find myself in Pakistan and hear my alarm, waking up to turn on the TV at 4 AM, to find Yasir Shah bowling outside leg stump and getting smashed to all corners of huge grounds.
And… scoring a century? Shane Warne is on commentary, as nervous as he would be for an Aussie batter in the 90s, when Yasir clears mid-on with a stomach-turning chip to get to three figures, to Warne’s elation. It feels like one of a few sweet little moments, surrounded by ruthless Aussie destruction, and that’s all Pakistan get.
That rookie batter, Babar Azam, fresh off a breakout World Cup, chooses Australia of all places to flourish into a world-class Test batter, with cover drives worth the sacrificed sleep. He gets a sumptuous century at the Gabba and a 97 in Adelaide.
The bowling, well, it certainly exists, but it feels like its purpose is to provide batting practice to David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne.
Four years later, I again find myself in an uncivilized country that doesn’t have cricket on TV. Perhaps this time, I might just sleep through it all.
The opinions expressed solely belong to the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Grassroots Cricket.