'Dead, benign' - Steve Smith reviews Rawalpindi pitch as 1st Test heads for dull draw
The ace Australia batter scored 78 as the visitors matched the hosts' mammoth batting efforts to score a 400-plus total.
It is a Test series that everybody looked forward to as Pakistan were playing Australia in a Test series for the first time on its own soil since 1998. But the first game of the series played in Rawalpindi turned out to be a complete anti-climax with more than 900 runs scored and only 11 wickets falling in the first four days, ensuring that the result will be nothing but a dull draw.
Ace Australia batter Steven Smith was among those who were disappointed with the wicket at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium and he called the surface “dead” and “benign” which offered little help to the seamers. Pakistan declared their innings on 476 for 4 after winning the toss and electing to bat and at stumps on Day 4, Australia were placed at 449 for 7. Two Pakistani batters have scored big hundreds while four from Australia made fifties in the game so far.
Traditionally, Rawalpindi has offered aid to pace bowlers but there was nothing of that sort happening in the ongoing match. Pakistan left-arm spinner Nauman Ali is the only bowler to have gained some respect with four wickets for 107 and Smith admitted that there was slightly more for the spinners in the wicket. Australia’s veteran spinner Nathan Lyon though had a disappointing outing with a solitary reward for 161 runs in 52 overs.
Speaking at the press conference after the fourth day’s play, Smith, who scored 78 off 196 balls and fell to Ali, said, “It’s pretty benign. There’s not a great deal of pace and bounce in it for the seamers. I think the spinners have offered a little bit. When you hit the right length, there’s been a little bit of natural variation and you know, when you get it out a bit wider into the rough I think there’s a little bit there as well. So, I thought it would break up a little bit more and probably turn a bit more from the start, but it probably hasn’t done so. But yeah, pretty benign, dead wicket.”
Smith is still hopeful that Australia could force a result
The former Australia captain, who hit his 34th Test fifty in the match, also said that there was a remote chance for the visitors to force a result in the match if their last three wickets gave them a healthy lead.
“Hopefully, the tail can stay out there for a while. And if they do, they usually score pretty quickly. If they do, there’s a decent chance that we’d be able to set a half-decent total to potentially have a bowl at,” he said.
Smith’s hope has its historical basis. In a Test match in Abu Dhabi in 2015, Pakistan and England scored 1,121 runs in the first four days but the match saw a dramatic twist on the final day with the Asian side getting bowled out for 173, leaving the Three Lions only 99 to win. However, Pakistan averted disgrace as poor light denied England the victory.