Which will it be for the last day of this Test series? Will it be the Pakistan that we saw towards the end of the Brisbane Test, never quite down and pushing towards what would have been the most epic scaling of a target in Test cricket? Or will it be the Pakistan of Melbourne’s last day, unable to bat out 67 overs on a blameless surface to secure a draw?
It is difficult to believe that this Pakistan side is one bad session from yet another whitewash in Australia, what would be the fourth in a row. Difficult as much because this is no vintage Australia side and that this was Pakistan’s most settled side in nearly 15 years to visit; difficult because, for once, Pakistan’s batting has done enough good work most of which their supposedly better halves have wasted.
It hasn’t worked out that way but even this deadest of dead rubbers holds some point for Pakistan. A draw will be their best result since the Sydney win over 20 years ago. It will be small consolation, but consolation enough and perhaps an appropriate way to sign off on the Misbah era.
“We want to finish this series on a good note,” said Younis Khan, who ended Pakistan’s first innings unbeaten on 175, his first hundred in Australia. “It will be better for us if we show some fight. It will not be easy. Fifth day of a Test, in Sydney, they have two spinners and they have good fast bowlers.
“You can’t say [which Pakistan will turn up]. But my wish and effort is – though we cannot win the series, we were capable of winning it but we didn’t – but at least, if we do well tomorrow, if we fight tomorrow, it will be very good for the Pakistan cricket and the side.”
It has been a strange tour from which to glean positives. The highs have been exquisite and solely reserved for the batsmen, but they have all come with a bittersweet after-taste. Asad Shafiq’s hundred in the fourth innings at Brisbane, Azhar Ali’s double-hundred at the MCG and now Younis’ 34th century – ordinarily they would be cause for greater celebration for Pakistani batsmen in Australia but they might end up as the footnotes of a whitewash.
Younis’ innings itself was unusual in that it came in a dead rubber (only the second of his 34 for which that is the case) and it brought mixed feelings.
“Definitely,” he said. “I don’t believe there needs to be big individual performances – I believe in having even minor performances but those which help you to winning a game, towards winning, towards positive result.”
But there could be longer-term benefits. “It is a good sign for Pakistan that Azhar for instance scored a double in the last Test and it was Pakistan’s best innings in Australia. Big names have come here, big openers have come here and they didn’t do as well.
“Also Asad Shafiq, the way he played in that Test, and then my innings. I think from a series like this, if you have those kinds of innings, it really motivates and inspires youngsters back home. Back home there is no cricket but against top teams – although this is a young Australia team, rebuilding and not like the ones we faced in 2004 and even 2010 – but these performances, the youngsters in the country get good motivation.
“I came a bit late to this series so I can’t highlight this [hundred] that much. But on the other side, I did have a desire to get a century here so I’m thankful for that.”