Australia were playing their first Test in Pakistan in 24 years and the anticipation was that it would be an exciting game.
However, it didn’t take long for the excitement to disappear as the first Test in Rawalpindi fizzled out to a boring draw with the pitch, which resembled a road, coming under heavy scrutiny.
Across the five days of Test cricket, a whopping 1187 runs were scored and only 14 wickets taken by the bowlers.
Pakistan battered first and declared their innings at 476 after 162 overs with Australia only getting four wickets. Aussie fast bowlers Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood toiled hard but could only manage one wicket between them with each bowling over 20 overs.
The pitch offered very little for the big quicks with spinner Nathan Lyon bowling 52 overs for only one wicket.
The Aussies scored 459 in their first innings that lasted for 140 overs with Usman Khawaja top scoring with 97, Marnus Labuschagne scored 90 and Steve Smith made 78.
Pakistan had a lead of 17 runs as they began their second innings.
The home side finished on 0 for 252 with Shafique 136 not out and Imam unbeaten on 111 with the Test ending on day five, 21 overs early after both teams shook hands and agreed to end the match.
Australia used nine bowlers during the innings, including rarely tried Usman Khawaja, however none could take any wickets.
Australia created some unwanted records in the Test match with the bowlers claiming just three wickets across 239 overs, with Marnus Labuschagne’s direct hit run-out accounting for the fourth wicket.
The Aussies combined bowling average of 238.33 and strike-rate of 478 was the second-worst in 145 years of Test cricket, sitting only behind Pakistan’s efforts in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1958 when Sir Garfield Sobers scored 365 not out.
Australian captain Pat Cummins said the pitch was not a traditional pitch and the curators ensured it would not benefit pace bowling.
“Turning up to a pitch that’s probably not a traditional pitch you would get here in Rawalpindi, and it’s probably clear they’ve made an effort to try and nullify the pace bowling,” Cummins said post-match.
“Didn’t get a huge look at reverse swing this Test, but that might come into it later on. But I was really happy with how everyone went and everyone’s come through unscathed.”
Steve Smith described the wicket as ‘dead’ and ‘benign’ and said it offered little to the fast bowlers.
“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,” Smith said.
“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.”
On Twitter, journalist Jon Ralph called it ‘the worst Test pitch this century’.
Following the boring draw, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board Ramiz Raja admitted the pitch was produced to reduce the impact of Australia’s fast bowling attack.
In comments translated by ESPNCricinfo, Raja conceded that the home side was happy to settle for a draw from the start of play.
“I understand the frustration of the fans – undoubtedly it would have been very good if we had a result, but this is a three-Test series, and we need to understand that a lot of cricket still remains to be played,” he said.
“Just for the heck of it, we can’t prepare a fast pitch or a bouncy pitch and put the game in Australia’s lap.”
From the beginning of the Test match, there were calls for the International Cricket Council (ICC) to step in and sanction the Pakistan Cricket Board.
The ICC can deem the pitch ‘poor’ and if they do, the venue will be handed three demerit points. A venue is suspended from hosting international cricket for 12 months if it receives five demerit points in a five-year period.
The second Test begins at Karachi on March 12 where hopefully the focus will be on the cricket and not the pitch.