2nd Test Pakistan v Australia Day 1 - Skipper Steadies the Ship for Pakistan
Pakistan has a long history of lower order batsmen coming to the rescue, in the most sensational ways.
Pakistan 282 (Fakhar Zaman 94, Sarfraz Ahmed 94; Nathan Lyon 4-78, Marnus Labuschagne 3-45)
Australia 20 - 2 (7.0 overs) – (Mohammad Abbas 2-9)
At the Close - Australia trail Pakistan by 262 runs with 8 wickets remaining
Toss: Pakistan won the toss and decided to bat
Venue - Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
On one such day a battling 6th wicket stand between Test debutante Fakhar Zaman and skipper Sarfraz Ahmed, is set to impact the outcome of this contest. Prior to their rescue act, Australian off-spinner Nathan Lyon, in the space of six deliveries, handed an advantage to the tourists by sending back four front-line batsmen. A shocking collapse had reduced the ‘home’ team to 57 for 5 in the first session when the two batsmen showed real character to dig their side out of trouble. After reaching a respectable total of 282, Pakistan had their paceman Mohammad Abbas, bang on the money whilst sending back his prime target Usman Khawaja and night-watchman Peter Siddle to reduce Australia to 20 for 2. Pakistan is certainly ahead on points after first day’s play at Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi.
With two changes in their playing eleven from the Dubai Test, Pakistan went into this game, with a much bolder approach, particularly by bringing in two new faces: Fakhar Zaman and Mir Hamza. A chance to go one up was missed in the opening encounter at Dubai with a combination of missed chances by Sarfraz Ahmed’s men and a magnificent fight back from Australia. Getting out of jail and earning a draw was Australia’s moral victory and its management saw no reason to make any changes for the 2nd of the two-Test series in UAE.
Again Sarfraz after winning toss had little hesitation in batting first. Left-handed opening batsman Fakhar Zaman, a white-ball specialist, made his Test debut, on a challenging wicket. After some nervy moments early on, Fakhar very rightly played what came ‘natural’ to him – attacking and fearless. A finger injury had ruled out first choice opening batsman Imam-ul-Haq resulting in Fakhar, walking out with Mohammad Hafeez, a day shy of his 38th birthday. He was missed on 28 by Labuschagne, who had earlier sent back Hafeez with sharp catch at short leg, in the third over of the day. The 52-run stand between Fakhar and Azhar Ali was broken when the latter was caught and bowled by off-spinner Nathan Lyon. Azhar’s poor form continues. Harris Sohail was out first-ball to a catch at silly point. It was all action on the Abu Dhabi wicket offered spin in the first session. In his following over Lyon sent back Asad Shafiq, second ball and Babar Azam, stepping out bowled, both without scoring.
With half the side in the pavilion with just 57 on the board, Pakistan was in serious trouble with a feeling that even a total of 200 was beyond them. It was a case of ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’. Fakhar having witnessed a horror show from the non-striker’s end, was unbeaten on 49 when lunch was taken the score at 77 for 5. Skipper Sarfraz was in his stride, from the word go and looked determined to see his side out of the crisis. With so much at stake, he refused to be bogged down by Australian bowlers and proved a perfect ally to Fakhar. Sarfraz’s experience was the key in Pakistan losing just one wicket that of Fakhar in the second session, just at the stroke of tea, six short of a debut hundred. His superb 94 came off 198 balls with 8 fours and a six and potentially match-changing partnership worth 147 came to an end. Fakhar has both the game and presence to become a new star in all three formats. Sadly the Pakistan skipper too fell six runs short of a century but not before his 129 ball innings that featured 7 fours had added respectability to his side’s total. A captain’s knock that he can justifiably be proud of. On each occasion it was Marnus Labuschagne, the part-time leg-break bowler, who strangled the two batsmen in their 90s and finished with figures of 3 for 45, second to Lyon’s 4 for 78 off 27 overs.
Australia in its seven overs of batting was up against Mohammad Abbas, bowling in his typical clockwork rhythm and deadly accuracy. In his four overs he has already two victims to his name. The prize wicket of Usman Khawaja had an additional significance for Abbas is the joint second fastest Pakistan bowler, along with three pacemen, Waqar Younis, Shabbir Ahmed and Mohammad Asif, to claim 50 wickets in just 10 Test matches. He is surely the most potent weapon in Pakistan’s bowling armoury at present and has pushed Australia on the back foot.
Pakistan - Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed(c)(wk), Bilal Asif, Mohammad Abbas, Mir Hamza, Yasir Shah
Australia - Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Tim Paine(c)(wk), Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon, Jon Holland
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