When the scoreline doesn’t matter any more – how a Test match mourned
Taha Hashim reports from Rawalpindi, where the show went on the day after the passing of Shane Warne.
The day was always going to be a sombre one.
The shock of Shane Warne’s death has reverberated across the globe, and Pakistan is no exception. It was there, with the placards fans brought to the Pindi stadium that were dedicated to Warne. It was there, during the tea break in the media centre, when Waqar Younis, an opponent back in the day, spoke alongside several journalists about the great leg-spinner during a short ceremony. It was there, before play, with a minute’s silence. Both for Warne and the victims of a terror attack in Peshawar on Friday. The game itself didn’t matter any more.
A subdued morning session was inevitable. Imam-ul-Haq and Azhar Ali continued where they’d left off the previous evening, and did it the responsible way: a single here, a couple there, and no shots played that will live long in the memory. Twenty-five overs brought 57 runs, little excitement and no escape from the mournful feeling of the entire occasion.
Yet it would be wrong to say that this was a completely joyless affair. Because if you looked close enough, there were still reasons to smile. Think of Azhar, the dedicated 37-year-old who, nearing the final stages of his career, is finally getting to hit a few in front of a home crowd. For too long, he was out there in the UAE, racking up ton after ton with few present to truly appreciate the whole-hearted grind under the Emirati sun.
After celebrating his second Test century in Pakistan, he got a move on in the hunt for the declaration: 101 off 257 balls was followed by 84 runs off his next 104. When the reverse-sweep went wrong and gifted a simple catch, he trudged off, but not to silence. Instead, it was to a standing ovation, with his marathon granted a happy ending if not a fourth Test double hundred.
There were a couple of Babar Azam drives down the ground – now that’ll lift anyone up. A gentle forward push, never overhit, never not pretty. The hulking Cameron Green was the bowler but it was Babar’s turn to tower over him.
Even Australia, during their long hours of toil, found a few seconds to celebrate a little bit of their own magic: Marnus Labuschagne glided across the turf to deny a quick single and leave Babar just short of the crease with a bullet throw. The superstar skipper was sent on his way just as he was getting started. Nonetheless, those in were roaring once again when they realised who was next: Mohammad Rizwan, the punchy keeper-batter who can do no wrong.
Away from the action, there was a wholesome period during the evening session as a pocket of the crowd chanted loudly for David Warner, who was stationed at long-off. When the Australia opener moved away, they made their thoughts clear: “We want Warner!” The left-hander was grateful for the appreciation and made it known. There was plenty of love for a household name finally making an appearance in Pakistan.
The finish to the day brought back a reminder of the morning’s tone: bad light took hold as Australia’s openers were treated to an over of Sajid Khan’s off-spin before the day was brought to a premature end.
The tourists finished on 5-0, trailing by 471. The scoreline still seems irrelevant, but perhaps the game itself isn’t. Perhaps it’s worth looking back on this day of play as a much-needed distraction. Sure, there was plenty of attrition, but there were still moments to behold, stories to savour. In amongst all the sadness, there was still a bit of a kick, a bit of a thrill, a bit of joy to take home.