He bats at eight because there is not much beneath him, and this time there wasn’t much above him either.
His opportunity to be a batsman arose from the relative incompetence above and below him in the order. He bats at eight because there is not much beneath him, and this time there wasn’t much above him either. He came to the wicket in the 32nd over on Saturday evening thanks to the collapse of his top order. His role was to support Babar Azam, who again played beautifully, a task Yasir acquitted with the expected airy swings and a less-expected watertight defence.
Once Babar was gone, Yasir played more big shots but also managed to keep panic at bay. He survived two regulation chances, a stumping and a caught-and-bowled, both against spin, which typified an Australian effort that had lost its focus. Perhaps there was too much thinking about how to manufacture the terms of the game; perhaps there was too much larking about in the field. Australians seldom play at their best when they are loosey-goosey.
When he was bowling, Yasir could avoid the milestone moment. Batting, the moment overwhelmed him. In sight of his century, he lost feeling in his hands. Wringing his fingers, he called for a trainer. He tried to take a drink, but forgot he was wearing his helmet. Then he tried to run himself out but was saved by his partner Mohammad Abbas. After blocking Josh Hazlewood for four balls, he decided he couldn’t bear it any longer and scooped the ball – just – over mid-on’s head.
A hundred! Yasir! As golf’s Verne Lundquist might say, Yes, sir! He raised his bat, swished it around, threw an air-uppercut that released its quota of frustration, and then got on his hands and knees to kiss the turf and thank the gods that had not, until now, been at all kind to him. Safe to say, he hadn’t been rehearsing century celebrations in front of his bedroom mirror.
Rain had been forecast, and the Australians performed as if they had been expecting a day off and took it anyway. Marnus Labuschagne dropped Yasir again after he passed 100. When he finally holed out to deep mid-wicket – Nathan Lyon doing a good turn that no fieldsman had done him – Yasir threw his head back in disappointment, as if he was owed yet another life.
A sloppy session of cricket? For the Australians, yes. But one team’s forgettable passage of play is another man’s lifelong memory.