Australia's domination this summer has been punctuated by some resolute batting by their middle order. It is their depth in batting that has helped Australia avert many a crisis.
The opposition bowlers have found it difficult to run through the enormous batting that Australia possesses. It was on display again on Sunday at MCG. With 3 down for 38, and Pakistanis' breathing fire, some sensible and common sense approach from Steve Waugh, Bevan and Damien Martyn saw Australia through and they still had the explosive Symonds, Shane Lee and Fleming waiting in the ranks.
It speaks highly of their immense batting strength. During the Test matches and now in the one-dayers, the rescue act by Australian batsmen has been creditable.
Damien Martyn is fast turning out to be a utility one-day cricketer. All kudos to Aussie selectors who persisted with him. In the last game against India, with the top order gone, he showed good technique to negotiate Srinath and Co on a seaming track. On Sunday at MCG, he portrayed good cricketing brains, cool emotions and balanced footwork to play the reverse swing of Shoaib Akhtar, Razzaq and Akram - assisting his captain ably through a difficult phase.
It is not easy for a pure batsman like Martyn who normally bats at no 3 or no 4 for his state side to play at no 6 at international level. One does not get too many balls to get one's eye in. It also requires immense skill to rotate the strike and be explosive at the same time. Martyn has fashioned himself very well at this position and his fielding is an asset to the side.
Early morning mist resulted in a delayed start and curtailment of overs. The MCG wicket was almost a belter, with the ball coming on to the bat nicely and its behaviour remained the same right through.
Pakistan's top order is giving nightmares to their captain. They brought in technically sound Wasti in place of Afridi, but even he could not stem the rot. At 107/ 7 at one stage, Aussies were looking to deliver the last blow - yet again Pakistan's lower order rose to the occasion. Razzaq with a belligerent 50, Saqlain and Waqar Younis took Pakistan to a fighting score. Razzaq initially struggled to put bat to ball, but in the slog overs he stamped his authority with some lovely hits. The last 10 overs yielded 70 runs, which was a terrific effort, considering that Australia's main bowlers were operating.
In all the three games, Pakistan's lower order has accumulated useful runs in the last ten overs, and it is due to their brave endeavors that Pakistan has notched two wins.
Saeed Anwar provided the early flourish and just when Pakistan was expecting to increase momentum, Bevan took a well-judged catch to dash their hopes. Razzaq's heroics towards the end restored some pride for Pakistan.
Razzaq is the kind of all-rounder any captain would love to have in the side. In the first game against Australia, it was his fast and penetrative seam bowling which broke the back of Australia's batting and today he displayed amazing power to dispatch McGrath and Brett Lee. He is a cent per cent cricketer who loves to be in the thick of action.
McGrath suffered in the slog overs . He could not come to terms with his length and bowled a goodish length which proved costly. Andrew Symonds is the surprise packet. He bowls within his limitations, keeps the ball up, hits the seam often, which helps the ball to deviate. His wicket-taking ability has enhanced the already strong riches of all-rounders that Australia has.
Pakistan failed to capitalise on the breakthrough which Shoaib Akhtar provided. Australia were motoring along nicely when Akhtar struck quick blows. In his first over, he made inroads by claiming Gilchrist and the in-form Ponting. Mark Waugh was undone by a smart piece of work by Youhana.
With three down, it was almost a repeat of the first game, but on Sunday, Pakistan's bowling lacked penetration. Apart from Akhtar none of the other bowlers came good. Waqar was nowhere near his best and the others could not give the adequate support needed by Akhtar.
It is sheer delight to watch Shoaib Akhtar in action. He is a great entertainer and the crowd flock to watch him bowl. They love to see him pumped up and unleashing his thunderous deliveries. So far in this triangular series, his craft mixed with pace has delivered crucial blows to the opposition.
Australia, with three wins from four games, are on top. Pakistan have the ability and it is time their batsmen back their bowlers with sensible batting.