Usman Khawaja once again displayed his desire and commitment to be an integral part of the Australian Test squad looking ahead, finishing the day unbeaten on a steely half-century.
Pakistan put themselves seven wickets away from a third straight Test victory over Australia in the UAE, after taking three wickets after tea on the fourth day of the first Test. Having set Tim Paine’s men 462 to win, they landed three body blows to Australian aspirations of seeing out the 137 overs they need to survive. All three wickets were claimed by the unstylish brilliance of Mohammad Abbas within 12 balls of each other when the score reached 87 – Australia’s version of the unlucky number 13. Usman Khawaja once again displayed his desire and commitment to be an integral part of the Australian Test squad looking ahead, finishing the day unbeaten on a steely half-century.
As was the chase in the first innings, Australia’s openers continue to lead the resistance against a Pakistan surge. Khawaja and Aaron Finch picked up where they left off after their 142-run stand was broken yesterday, adding 87 for the first wicket. Aside from four overs at the top by Abbas, who was his consistent, probing self, the spinners operated for almost the entirety of the session before tea. But the Australian openers were wise to their wile, picking Bilal Asif early – perhaps even out of the hand – and their footwork did not let them down.
If someone had told Australia they would bat 50 overs today without losing a single wicket to spin, they would have snapped your hand off. But Abbas, always unsung but perpetually impressive, ensured the day would still firmly be Pakistan’s, with a spell of fast bowling so unerringly accurate even the Dubai surface could not help but reward him with wickets. Finch, who he had worked over with phenomenal forbearance in the first innings, once again succumbed to a similar delivery. Straight and tailing in, this one clattered into his pads a little quicker and sharper than the opener had been expecting. It trapped him dead in front.
There was plenty to suggest Yasir Shah and Asif will continue to grow in stature as the match progresses. The odd ball spun sharply enough to worry the batsmen, and Yasir occasionally found the inside edge to keep the short leg interested. Pakistan set an unnecessarily negative field, before lunch, though; there were a number of fielders on the boundary in what were not conventional catching positions. Against a team that still required more than 400 runs to win, there was little need of such conservatism.
Pakistan’s declaration came eight overs after lunch, when Shafiq holed out with Pakistan’s lead at 461, attempting to launch Nathan Lyon over the midwicket boundary.
By the end, though, Khawaja and Head were certainly fully focused, and will need to remain that way for a final day that will surely test their character, endurance and abilities to the fullest. For Australia, though, the work is less than half done. They must bat out at least 90 overs if they are to avoid defeat here. Agencies