For the second time in two Tests, Pakistan endured a horrible batting collapse in the Test series against Australia. After the home team lost seven wickets for 100 runs in the second Test in Karachi, Day 3 of the third and final match in Lahore saw Pakistan’s batting appear clueless against the Australian pace duo of Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins. With the ball reverse swinging, Cummins and Starc produced a spell in partnership for the ages as Pakistan, from 214/2, went crumbling and were knocked over for 268.
Cummins finished with 5/56 while Starc grabbed 4/33 as Pakistan lost their last seven wickets for just 20 runs. As expected, the world of Twitter was in an unforgiving mood and took shots at the Pakistan team for their poor show with the bat.
Former England batter and commentator Rob Key said of Cummins: “He is extraordinary the way he is able to just keep coming.
“He never lets up, every single ball … He’s been an inspired choice as captain.”
It was Cummins’ never-say-die attitude and his utmost belief that a result could be salvaged in Lahore that inspired his troops in the final session.
Crucially, his catch brought out-of-form Fawad Alam to the crease.
Of course, Mitchell Starc had a major role to play as he produced his best bowling of the series to skittle both Alam and Mohammad Rizwan.
Then, as Pakistan was drowning, Cummins stepped on its head to finish the day with sensational figures of 5-56.
In doing so, Cummins became just the fifth Australian captain to take a five-wicket haul in an away Test, and the first since Michael Clarke against the West Indies in 2012.
It should be said, however, that for all the excitement of the seven-wicket implosion, achieving a result in Lahore is still far from simple.
The chances of a draw have dramatically reduced, but Australia still must take at least 10 more wickets against a side that has batted for 116 and 171 overs in its past two innings.
As a result, Wednesday night for Cummins will likely be spent considering declaration scenarios rather than reflecting on his individual feat.
For the third time in his captaincy career, Cummins will likely be asked to make a declaration to chase a win late in a Test.
As yet, he has not had a successful declaration, while his deputy, Steve Smith, managed to secure a late win against England in the final session of day five in Adelaide in December when Cummins was forced to miss the match due to being a Covid close contact.
Since then, England held on for an unlikely draw in Sydney with Cummins’ declaration coming too late, while Pakistan grinded out an even less probable draw in Karachi last week.
Unlike either of those Tests, the result of an entire series will largely hinge on Australia’s tactics on day four.
For all of Cummins’ brilliance with the ball, it could be forgotten if he gets it wrong in Lahore.
LEFT-ARMER’S POTENIAL SERIES WINNING SPELL
In one spell, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins have possibly turned the series.
Possibly because, as it was shown in Karachi, wickets remain few and far between.
The duo teamed up to destroy Pakistan, as they took 7-20 to bowl the home side out for 268.
A fast bowler’s paradise? Absolutely not, according to Starc.
“I don’t think the wicket helps the quicks at all,” he said plainly following day three.
“The key is reverse swing.
“For us, Patty and I used that reverse swing today. That’s the one area that’s going to be a big weapon for the bowlers.
“There’s certainly nothing in it for the bowlers.”
Even still, for the first time since the third day of the second Test, Australia got on a roll and had the home side on the back foot.
Time is now their enemy, with Cummins’ Australian side holding just a lead of 134 runs with two days to play.
While Cummins kept Australia in the fight, Starc’s two thunderbolts to bowl Fawad Alam and Mohammad Rizwan in quick succession swung the Test in Australia’s favour.
Starc, who had struggled with the exception of his spell on day three of the second Test, reaped the rewards as he finished with 4-33 from 20.4 overs while his skipper took 5-56 from 24 overs.
The duo are now first and fourth on the leading wicket-takers list for the series, with Cummins’ nine scalps topping the charts.
The opening bowling pair drew comparisons with the best of the best, with their reverse swing and searing pace being compared to Pakistan greats Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.