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Pakistan a shade ahead on Day One against Australia in 1st Test

Mohammad Hafeez (126) for Pakistan today
©Reuters
 

The 205-run opening stand between Mohammad Hafeez (126) and Imam-ulHaq (76) was the highlight of day one of the opening Test between Pakistan and Australia at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. The pair applied itself pretty effectively in Pakistan’s adopted home of UAE, denying the bowlers anywicket in the first two sessions with the score standing at 199-0 off 61 overs.

Australia fought back with three wickets and restricted the total to 255-3 at close of play. The tourists will be most pleased to see the back of Azhar Ali, the third wicket to fall in the dying moments of the play, besides restricting the opposition to just 56 runs in the post-tea session.

Pakistan v Australia 1st Test   Dubai

Pakistan 255 - 3 (90.0 overs) – (Mohammad Hafeez 126, Imam ul-Haq 76)

Australia - Yet to bat

At the Close - Pakistan are 255 for 3

Scorecard

Australia-Pakistan cricket rivalry dates back to 1956 and the two teams now lock their horns in a two-Test series in UAE. For the present encounter, at the beginning of  2018, neither team could claim to be at the top of their game.

Pakistan, short of confidence, in all three formats of international cricket, in their bid for a match-winning combination in Tests, welcome back Mohammad Hafeez, a late addition to the squad, as an opening batsman, nudging the more prolific Azhar Ali, back to the one-down slot. Somewhat surprising for Azhar, for he has had a fairly successful run in the last two years as an opening batsman. As a proven class player, he remains flexible and unselfish in Pakistan’s cause. Paceman Wahab Riaz and wrist spinner Yasir Shah are the other two players recalled to further boost the side’s preparation for the opening Test. The team management has quite rightly gone with six specialist batsmen with captain Sarfraz Ahmed, dropping to No.7, an appropriate slot for someone, desperate to being among runs again.

The Australian team, jolted so badly in the ball-tampering episode in South Africa in April and the consequential loss of their star batsmen, Steve Smith and David Warner, no longer have its trademark aura. The heat in Dubai and the placid nature of the wickets require quality spin bowling to claim 20 wickets and despite Nathan Lyon’s experience of the Asian conditions, Australia will certainly wish they had pacemen Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins in UAE. Three Test debutants – Travis Head, Aaron Finch and Marnus Labuschagne – and new captain, 33-year old wicket-keeper Tim Paine – the tourists could be mistaken to have taken the field with its 2nd II. In view of

Australia’s poor Test record in the sub-continent in the last decade, Pakistan  rightly is tipped as favourites. One thing is for sure the Australian squad will not be lacking in preparation, now in the hands of Justin Langer, their new Head Coach.

Win the toss and bat was the obvious way to go and Hafeez and Imam-ul-Haq gave Pakistan a sound start in taking the score to 89-0 off 31overs. As expected the scoring rate did pick up after lunch as the Australian bowlers, with nothing to show for in the all-important wicket column, feeling the heat. The left-right combination is a good ploy at the top of the innings, if it works. Left-handed Imam, happy to play second fiddle was the first to perish for 76 with 7 fours and 2 sixes in his composed innings. Over the years we have seen Hafeez, in his element, in the conditions offering little to the bowlers. Today was no exception as he brought up his 10th Test hundred off 172 balls, to provide a solid platform for his side and justify his latest comeback in the Pakistan Test team.

Back in the Test side after two-year absence, due to injuries to young Aussie pacemen, Peter Siddle, could only hold one end up and nothing more but along with Nathan Lyon, who did a splendid job for his country by giving away just 63 runs in 33 overs of tidy off-spin, could be proud of their efforts in such heartbreaking conditions for bowlers. After keeping the score down to less than two runs an over for the best part of the last session on Day 1, Australia can look forward to competing on Day 2, with an aim to keep Pakistan total below 350.

Pakistan -Imam ul-Haq ,Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed(c)(wk), Bilal Asif, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Abbas, Wahab Riaz

Australia - Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Travis Head, Marnus, Labuschagne, Tim Paine(c)(wk), Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Jon Holland, Nathan Lyon

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