Australian cricket depth has been nurtured as well as talked about for a while now and it is emerging in the most convincing way in this Carlton and United series, creating headaches and more, for it's opponents. Their intention was to attack all the way through their long batting list and what this does is take the pressure off the top order's risk taking, knowing that there is good batting to come, if they happen to fail.
Michael Bevan is taking more risks than usual this Summer because he has to, batting at number four. Australia are getting out of the blocks quickly but also losing two wickets. Mark Waugh and Gilchrist haven't combined well as yet, which has meant Bevan entering with time on his side.
Close in field placings which worked well for Akram yesterday, prevents the easy single which is Bevo's trademark. Unknown to observers, used to seeing him bat at six, Bevan is also adept at crunching boundaries and early in his knocks he's been able to show everyone.
With this long batting order Australia play with the sole intention of maintaining the high rate initiated by the openers for the full 50 overs. Scores of 300 will soon be more common with this new intention and when Ponting, Bevan and Symonds were smashing fours, sixes and pinching ones, twos and miraculously hustled threes, today looked like one of those.
Akram put a stop to that. I thought his captaincy was great and he re-introduced Shoaib Akthar who took Symonds and Steve Waugh in a spell of quality. Saqlain and Shahid Afridi were used expertly as well, but had to back the captain's choice up with clever execution. This is something that hasn't been in evidence by Pakistan consistently and it won't matter how good your captain is, if players don't stick to plans. Their batting plan was clear as soon as Afridi started swinging at everything, mostly unsuccessfully, although when he settled, no bowler was safe. Strong whips to leg ,fours down the ground and a brilliant six off MacGill, against considerable spin. The Afridi lead however wasn't followed, but control was the feature of Ijaz's innings which got his side into a position where victory was probable.
Ijaz seems to be turning poor early season form into good, to provide Pakistan with some solidarity, for shot makers to operate around .He and his partners had a storm to weather early when Brett Lee bowled the two fastest balls of the year. Batsmen were jumping in defence and missing with attack, as the rookie steamed in with great rhythm. Lee followed Shoaib's lead of the first innings, where if the batsmen wished to slog, they would invariably have to do it from off the stumps.
Australia's all-rounders played a role for Waugh during the middle with Symonds and Mark Waugh taking the pace off the ball on a slowing MCG deck. Shane Lee definitely wasn't overshadowed by brother Brett either, with four wickets , a catch and a brisk 17 runs. It was he who answered his captain's call after a short rain delay, to claim Ijaz for 85 at crunch time. Steve Waugh indeed, is a lucky skipper. The Pakistani bats, while probably unhappy with the loss are slowly running into form and it was Moin's best game so far, claiming five dismissals and making 33 from 35 balls. My belief is that Pakistan is focusing on the finals already where they will fiercely target the Aussies, similar to what they had done to them, in the World Cup final of last year.