19/12/2016 3:19 PM AEDT | Updated 19/12/2016 4:39 PM AEDT

Four Things We Learned During This Unbelievably Tense Test


Australia has won the first Test against Pakistan at the Gabba in Brisbane by 39 runs.

Pakistani middle order star Asad Shafiq -- who with 11 centuries has more three-figure scores at number six than any batsman in Test history -- led the way with a memorable 137. The innings was so gutsy it garnered him a rare man-of-the-match award in a losing cause.

Shafiq's innings only ended when Mitchell Starc forced a defensive prod from a sharply rising ball which ballooned to Dave Warner at gully. Shortly afterwards, Steve Smith ran out Yasir Shah and the match was over.

Shah had also chipped in admirably with his highest Test knock of 33, but one little concentration lapse, and that was that.

"That was some game of cricket, wasn't it," Australian captain Steve Smith said. "I think Asad played an unbelievable innings there. "I've lost all my fingernails I think."

Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq was upbeat after his team's loss.

"I'm happy because after first innings when we got out for 142, it was difficult for us to get back into this game. But the way all the batsmen showed their character was wonderful, and we got some special knocks from tail-enders as well. So I'm happy and proud."

Here are four key lessons we learned from a match that culminated in an unexpectedly dramatic finish, which Steve Smith called one of the most tense days of his career.

The pink ball is a cricket ball

Getty Images
No more laughing at this Kookaburra, please.

It is not a bomb. It is not a toffee apple with the stick removed. It is not any of the unplayable conveyances we have been told it was. It is a ball, and a ball fully worthy of international cricket played in full daylight, twilight, under lights, whenever.

End of story.

Except to say that Pakistan's fourth innings is the best thing that's happened to Test cricket in years. This was the match when day/night Tests were fully legitimised. They're not another version of Test cricket. They're Test cricket. And pink balls are Test balls.

Fifth day pitches aren't really fifth day pitches anymore

Cricket Australia/Getty Images
No danger of this man being swallowed by a giant crevice.

Can you believe that in over 220 matches in the history of Test cricket, teams have passed 400 in the fourth innings just 20 times? Here's the thing about that. Half of those scores have happened since 2000.

The fourth innings was once a time when pitches developed centimetre-wide cracks and your bat seemed as skinny as a golf club. But cricket has changed. Pitches deteriorate less quickly in the modern era, especially in Australia. Bigger scores are routinely made later in Test matches. South Africa won a Test in Perth in 2008 by making 4/414 in the second innings. Ever since then, it's been game on, no matter what the chase.

Declarations must be less generous

Steve Smith set Pakistan 490 to win with two days and a full session to play. Too generous. Everyone said "get Pakistan in under lights", but further to the above point about the ball, this is a furphy. No team should ever set another team less than 550 with two (or more) full days to play.

Steve Smith is human*

After taking two all-time screamers in the One Dayers against NZ, the Aussie captain dropped two catches on Sunday. Either catch would effectively have made this Test: game set and catch.

He also was a little conservative with his field placements early on Monday. Players in the outfield were positioned to allow easy singles, and there was only one slip for part of the day. At least one ball flew tantalisingly through the vacant second slip area.

Every Channel Nine Commentator would have done it differently, so they told us all day. Normally this kind of commentary is just tedious. On this occasion, it was tedious but correct.

*Although his catching and tactics went AWOL for a bit, Smith did make scores of 130 and 63 in this match, and also effected the final run-out with a lovely piece of quick thinking.


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