x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

This Ashes series Australia can look to Pakistan's example in 2010 at The Oval

A 2010 Test series, where Pakistan over achieved with a victory over host England at The Oval, may serve Australia well as a blueprint.

On his debut test match, Pakistan's Wahab Riaz, centre top, celebrates after taking his fifth wicket of the day, the wicket of England's Stuart Broad lbw, during the first day of the third cricket test match between England and Pakistan at The Oval in London on August 18, 2010. Pakistan would go on to win the match.
On his debut test match, Pakistan's Wahab Riaz, centre top, celebrates after taking his fifth wicket of the day, the wicket of England's Stuart Broad lbw, during the first day of the third cricket test match between England and Pakistan at The Oval in London on August 18, 2010. Pakistan would go on to win the match.

Among the wittier punchlines flying around regarding Australia's continuing descent is that they have now become Pakistan.

It culminated in a smart ESPN blog comparing the two: a wonky, young batting line-up, a clutch of impressive fast bowlers, a misfiring, delusional all-rounder about whom the jury at Test level remains undecided, whimsical selections, an unreconstructed, popular ex-player as new coach, continuing incidents of player indiscipline and an administration of Neros.

It is hard to tell them apart. Perversely, this may be no bad thing for Australia.

It may actually be cause for hope.

Consider the last Pakistan side to take on England on the later's home soil.

That 2010 series now lies overshadowed by the uncovered corruption that saw three Pakistani players serve prison time.

Beneath that, the most remarkable fact of that four-Test series was, until the second afternoon of the final Test at Lord's, when England were 102 for seven, Pakistan stood a chance of sharing the series.

But for Stuart Broad and Jonathon Trott's late, 332-run partnership, the series might have ended square at two-all. Which might have been the most outre result since forever, because Pakistan were as dysfunctional a side as any in their history.

Their original Test captain resigned one match into the summer. Already they had chosen to tackle difficult conditions without two of their most experienced and successful middle-order batsmen, leaving them fielding their weakest batting order since the early 1960s.

Their management was clearly negligent and the fielding was clumsy. They were redeemed only by a bowling attack that could occasionally make up for all of the above.

Pakistan's batting was so brittle, they were bowled out for under 100 three times in four Tests.

That they won even a Test, the third one at The Oval, is nothing short of miraculous.

That they won it when their captain and best bowlers were supposedly trying to fix the result is downright outrageous.

It is even more outrageous than the current Australia pulling off a similar result.

The England side that lost at The Oval was not only very similar to this one, it was arguably stronger.

Seven players who played in that Test played in the last one, the Ashes victory at Lord's. If that batting order had Eoin Morgan in it, now seen more dubiously as a Test prospect, then he was still cresting early success in his career.

Graeme Swann had yet to fall into the little dip with injuries and Steven Finn was on an upper as well.

Perhaps most crucially, they had Paul Collingwood in the middle order.

It is with that defeat in mind that ideas of whitewashing Australia in the current series sound just a little unbecoming or, conversely, that Australia might sneak a result, not altogether preposterous.

That result was not all that long ago; England have soared and dipped and levelled out since then.

Australia's bowling is not as well-rounded as that Pakistan attack, but only in hindsight.

At the time, beyond Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, Pakistan's attack looked shallow: Saeed Ajmal was not yet established in the Test XI and Wahab Riaz was making a debut that turned out to be a deceptive arrival.

Australia's fast bowlers have troubled England's top order in every innings across the two Tests; 11 for 2 at Trent Bridge, 28 for 3 and 30 for 3 at Lord's. If they can build on that early initiative and translate it into a lower English total than they have managed so far, then who knows?

It would help if they recognised the obvious and played their best spinner, Nathan Lyon.

The key will be the batting.

At The Oval, Pakistan made 308 in their first innings, their highest of the series.

That platform was set by the return of Mohammad Yousuf, who made only 56, but did it with such ease and authority that it emboldened others, hitherto terrified, around him.

Most notably, young Azhar Ali finished unbeaten on 92. That is a template Australia can attempt to emulate, beginning at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

It does not even require Michael Clarke to bat so big; it merely requires of him to repeat and prolong the kind of partnership he constructed with Usman Khawaja in the second innings at Lord's.

England are a good side, much the superior, as they were in 2010 against Pakistan.

But just as then, that does not mean they cannot be beaten.

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

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