After taking an early couple of wickets, Pakistan’s shoulders had dropped by the time stumps were called, but Mir Hamza didn’t let the disappointment of the final session sully memories he will carry for the rest of his career. Coming out just after lunch, he had followed up two strikes from Shaheen Shah Afridi with the wickets of David Warner and Travis Head in successive balls, the latter a near-unplayable inswinging delivery that cleaned Head up for a golden duck. “It was a dream for me to play at the MCG against one of the best teams, and to provide us two breakthroughs in one over,” Hamza said at the post-match press conference after the third day’s play.
At the time, Pakistan were riding very high. Australia were reeling at 16 for 4, while Pakistan believed they were in with a sniff. “We are still in the game, and we think we’ll get stronger,” he said. “The new ball will swing in any conditions – as it did for me – but there is something in the pitch. If you see the body language of our boys, it is very positive. We will try to get wickets as soon as possible. We are in the game.”
Hamza needs to make no apologies for beaming after the day, because he knows how rarely these moments come around, and how hard fought they can be. He played six years of first-class cricket before getting his first opportunity in Test cricket in 2018, then another four years before the second chance came.
So while it may be an exaggeration to call the two balls that rattled Warner and Head’s stumps one-in-a-million moments, terming them one in ten thousand is no statistical exaggeration. Part of the reason Hamza has struggled to break in is his lack of pace, with Pakistan always likely to prefer high pace when taking selection into account. Here at the MCG, Hamza’s speeds were a constant point of focus, largely registering in the 120ks. Hamza, though, knows what he is. “Bowlers know about their quality. Some bowlers are known for seam and swing, and others for pace,” he said. “What matters is that you disrupt the batter – whether you do it with seam and swing, or whether you do it with swing doesn’t matter.”