AUSTRALIA has the edge over Pakistan in the first Test at Lord’s after a day which saw 15 wickets fall.
Australia’s first innings total of 253 turned out to be more than competitive when some insipid Pakistan batting saw them only muster 148 all out in reply, due largely to the destructive starring roll of Shane Watson with the ball.
Watson took a career best of 5 for 40 from 7.5 overs. It’s the first time the all-rounder has achieved the 5 wicket haul in Tests; his name now permanently etched onto the hallowed Lord’s honours board.
It wasn’t a straight march for Shane Watson though; his mid romp stoush with Pakistan Captain Shahid Afridi providing the day’s highlight.
When Afridi strode to the crease, Watson was on fire with 2 wickets for 0 runs. Afridi though, apparently finding the adjustment from Twenty20 to Tests in the space of a week too bothersome, made up for what he lacked in footwork with characteristic dashing and dare. He immediately set about ruining Watson’s economy rate, despatching him to the boundary and over it.
Inevitably he was caught out to Watson, having notched up a thrilling 31 from just 15 balls.
Watson eagerly raised his own finger, ahead of the umpire’s, to send the opposition captain on his way; relief as much as revenge evident in his half cocked smile.
Opener Salman Butt was the only other Pakistani to offer any resistance, posting a poised and dogged 63 – the top score — before also falling to Watson, his woodwork skittled by a vicious in-swinger that made the most of the moist conditions.
Watson had little time to celebrate his 5 wicket swag before opening Australia’s second dig.
Making a solid start with Simon Katich, Watson put on a sturdy 31 before attempting one 4 through the covers too many and falling to Asif.
That brought Ricky Ponting to the crease to a respectful and sentimental round of applause for what will surely be his final knock at Lord’s.
About the only thing the Aussie captain hasn’t achieved in his aeon in the game is having his name, now like Watson’s, engraved on the honours board at the home of cricket, for scoring a century. He wanted it and this was his last shot.
Mirroring another aging Australian captain, Don Bradman in his final innings at The Oval when similarly all in attendance, regardless of their allegiance, were eager to see a legend get his deserved century (Bradman’s being his subsequently missed 100 Test match average), Ricky Ponting, like Bradman, instead was out for a duck – not offering a shot to an Asif ball that struck him on the back of the thigh but was going too far down leg side to be fairly given out LBW.
It was one of those curious, sour yet poetic moments that although they unite the crowd and player in deep disappointment, we somehow love the game for.
The late wickets of Michael Clarke for 12 and Mike Hussey for a golden duck left the Aussies on 4 for 100 at stumps.
Their overnight lead of 205 puts them just ahead of Pakistan going into day three of an enthralling match that, weather permitting, is all but guaranteed a result.
By Bryce Lowry, reporting from Lord’s