Nervous nineties? What nervous nineties? When Peter Handscomb danced down the pitch and lofted Yasir Shah over long-on for the first six of Australia’s innings, you wouldn’t have believed he was on the verge of a maiden Test century. When, in the next over, from the very next delivery that he faced, Handscomb drove Mohammad Amir for four through cover-point, he had his hundred. He had sprinted through the nineties in seven balls.
“I’d been toying with the idea of trying to hit Yasir over the top for most of the game,” Handscomb said. “They brought the field up to try and keep me off strike, so I thought there’s a chance, if he tosses it up I’ll give it a crack and see what happens. But that was only meant to go for two bounces and trickle over the rope. I was lucky enough it went the full distance and I was able to capitalise on a wide one next over.”
Handscomb reached his century shortly before tea, and fell soon after the resumption when he chopped on for 105, but already his Test career consists of three innings, one fifty, one century, and one winning run. His footwork has been excellent during both the Adelaide and Brisbane Tests, regularly advancing to the spinners, and also playing back to create a sense of uncertainty.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” he said. “The movements are great, going forward when I need to, going back when I need to, and just trying to stay as clear as possible. We all know that cricket’s a pretty fickle game and it can all change pretty quickly. So I’ll just be doing as much as I can to make sure that I stay as positive and keep trying to make as many runs as I can.”
Although Handscomb’s technique against the fast bowlers of playing back in his crease and waiting to play the ball late might look unusual, it is a method that has worked well for him in the past few seasons for Victoria. Handscomb said it had taken some time, and plenty of work with former Victoria coach Greg Shipperd, to settle on his unique style.
“All the way through junior cricket, into my first three years of first-class cricket, I changed my technique probably every year,” he said. “But that’s just something where each batter, each individual is just trying to find their own way, trying to find what works for them.
“A couple of years ago I did a lot of work with Greg Shipperd, and we just found a technique to try and stop a certain mode of dismissal, and we have. Since then I’ve been able to tinker with it and find my own little spin on it and it seems to be going okay at the moment.”
Handscomb and Steven Smith both scored centuries in Australia’s first innings to lift their total to 429, and by stumps on the second day Pakistan were in massive trouble at 8 for 97. Jackson Bird picked up 2 for 7 from nine overs and Mitchell Starc claimed one wicket, but Josh Hazlewood was particularly difficult for Pakistan’s batsmen to handle, and finished the day with 3 for 19 off 11.
“He’s able to land it on a five-cent coin pretty much all the time now, and he’s been doing that for plenty of games,” Handscomb said of Hazlewood. “He’s definitely one of our strike bowlers if not the best bowler in the country. He’s doing a great job. He’s awesome. It’s great to have him on my team for a change and not have to face that, which is good.
“It is tough under lights and we know that the pink ball swings under lights. They bowled well as well last night. But credit I think goes to our bowlers and the way we bowled in this session, to actually get a little bit more out of the wicket, which was awesome and has put us in a great position.”