But such conclusions would miss the skittish footwork Swepson’s introduction drew from Imam-ul-Haq before lunch, as the wrist spinner threatened footmarks that were too wide for Lyon. It was a testament to his eagerness for involvement that Swepson swooped from backward point to throw out Abdullah Shafique before lunch, his arm still warm from over No.1 in Test cricket.
Leg spin had, one way or another, changed the balance in the way that Warne had done for 15 wondrous years, and the hectic passages in early afternoon underlined the point. Knowing that he would eventually be challenged by Swepson out of the rough, Imam miscalculated to Lyon and punched to an exultant Cummins at mid on.
The reversing ball was, as predicted before the series, a variable that both sides needed to make the most of whenever it presented. Cummins, alert to its possibilities, responded to a hint of swing at his end by immediately recalling Starc in place of Lyon.
This was the moment Mushtaq used to abhor, all his hard work amounting to little as Waqar and Wasim reclaimed the ball. Osman Samiuddin, author of a most evocative history of Pakistan cricket, has called it the state of “haal”, a heightened point of consciousness at which team and individuals coalesce to overwhelm the opposition, often from nowhere.
In the same article, Waqar tried to articulate it: “Sometimes in any game when the momentum goes to the other side, the fielding side becomes a bit flat. But we knew, back of our minds, every guy, that there is an opportunity. Suddenly, jaan aajati he [you become alive]. When you have match-winners, when your bowler senses something, then your fielders pick up on it, they go along with them, you can see, you can see it in the eyes.“
Australian eyes were sharpened for wickets by the sight of the reversing ball.
Azhar Ali was taken at second slip by Cameron Green, the sort of quicksilver chance that is only held if you are expecting and anticipating, rather than hoping for, a catch. Fawad Alam was crooked and late on fierce inswing. Mohammad Rizwan, dropped by Steve Smith at a forward first slip, offered a second edge to Alex Carey. Faheem Ashraf was pinned from around the wicket by Green.
Six Pakistani wickets fell for 55 runs, after four fell for 726 runs a week ago. In the series aggregates this will look like an accounting error – the sort of expenses claim that requires further explanation.
At once this was a summary of how Pakistan play the game at their best but also how Australia, through sound research and planning, had expected things to evolve. They knew, based on history and psychology, that one team would have to crack at some point over three Tests. They resolved, after the team’s leaders pushed hard for a change of head coach and a less febrile team environment, that it was not going to be them.
Once the day’s pivotal passages had taken place, and only remnants of the Pakistan innings remained, Swepson and Lyon returned to the bowling crease, an opportunity not always afforded Mushtaq.
Here Australia’s decision-makers got a glimpse of Swepson’s possibilities. His first ball of a spell looped, drifted and dropped on Babar Azam, coaxing a skier held exultantly by Usman Khawaja. Not too long later, Shaheen Afridi was beaten by a sharply spinning leg break, then a well-pitched wrong’un, then given lbw on the sweep.
Swepson and Lyon walked off with 3-45 between them. They had played vital roles in the day that tilted this series, as Australia played and beat Pakistan at the tempo game they have made their own for decades.
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