x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Pointers from Smith masterclass for Pakistan batting

Graeme Smith, left, and AB de Villiers piled on the runs against a toothless Pakistan attack. Pawan Singh / The National
Graeme Smith, left, and AB de Villiers piled on the runs against a toothless Pakistan attack. Pawan Singh / The National

DUBAI // How do you solve a problem like Pakistan’s batting? There probably never will be a catch-all answer to that old chestnut.

However, a pretty good place to start might be to take the video of this Graeme Smith innings, tape the batsmen’s eyelids open, and force them to watch it on a loop. No stopping for lunch, tea, sleep, or Breaking Bad, until the penny has dropped.

This effort by the South African captain has been a masterclass in run gathering; even the very best could learn from it.

Out of sync at the start, tested by a 7ft 1ins fast bowler in Mohammed Irfan and against arguably the world’s best spinner in Saeed Ajmal, he refused to relent. A wicket has rarely been as ferociously guarded.

According to Mohammed Akram, Pakistan’s bowling coach, Smith’s innings was both an example to follow and a reason for optimism. It went to show there are runs left in this pitch yet.

“All credit to Smith, he was out of form and he scratched hard throughout his innings but he stayed at the crease,” Akram said.

“The idea is to stay at the crease on a pitch like this and cash in. Winning the toss and batting first shows we were confident of this being a batting pitch for the first three and a half days.

“We have seen that today. The pitch is good and I’m sure the batsmen are watching and really optimistic that they can apply themselves and stay at the crease as long as possible.”

There is often many a slip between theory and practise when it comes to Pakistan’s batting, though.

They could just as likely rack up a mammoth tally, like in Abu Dhabi, or subside to less than a hundred. There are rarely any clues as to which will turn up, even for the coaching staff.

“That has been the case for a long time and we do accept that,” Akram said.

“We are working on a lot of things trying to overcome this, but that is how it is.”

Smith said he anticipates batting on in the hope the pitch will start to become uneven and thus assist his trio of pace bowlers, plus Imran Tahir, the leg-spinner who took five Pakistan wickets in the first innings.

“Ideally, we would want to bat once in this game, that is goal No 1,” Smith said after collecting the fifth double century of his Test career.

“Plus, we want the wicket to deteriorate a bit more, as it’s very dry. We definitely have the attack that can take advantage if we do get a really big innings.”


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Audio: Pakistan coach praises his bowlers’ efforts