Usman Khawaja – Australia’s Saviour against Pakistan in 1st Test
Australia, against heavy odds, drew the first Test in Dubai, denying Pakistan a victory they it had hoped would be achieved without much fuss, on the final day wicket.
Pakistan 482 and 181 - 6 dec
Australia 202 and 362 - 8
Result – Match Drawn
That was not be. The tourists through true Australian grit and determination batted out for 139.5 overs to finish on 362 for 8. Usman Khawaja, the Islamabad-born Australian opener, played a remarkable knock, perhaps the finest of his career to date, to earn his side an unlikely draw. With a point to prove, for he had very little to show for in Asia, prior to this Test match,, but today he rose to the challenge and compiled a match-saving innings of great merit. For his 141, left-handed Khawaja in all batted resolutely for 8 hours, 44minutes, faced 302 balls and hit 11 fours and now might be asked by the team management to carry on as an opening batsman, for the rest of the 2018-19 season. He passed the endurance test with flying colours to the great delight of coach Justin Langer and was a straight forward choice for the Man of the Match award.
Resuming overnight at 136 for 3, both Khawaja and debutante Travis Head, were in their stride and successfully negotiated the first session and gave Australia an outside chance of saving the Test. By lunch the score stood at 215 for 3 with Khawaja on 82 and Head on 70. At the start of the post-lunch session, the Pakistan captain took the new ball and was rewarded with a wicket they had so badly needed to press for a victory. Off-spinner Mohammad Hafeez trapped Head leg-before for 72. It was an impressive comeback for Head who, on his debut, had been out for a duck in the first innings and upon his arrival yesterday was asked to save Australia from a defeat. His 3hours, 17 minutes stay at the wicket and his 4th wicket stand worth 132 runs with Khawaja was to prove pivotal in side’s rescue mission. Head hit 5 fours in his innings of 72.
At tea, Australia were on 289 for 5 were still not out of woods, and with Khawaja unbeaten on 122, needed support from other end. Skipper Tim Paine too was determined not to throw his wicket away and the two occupied the wicket for 36.2 overs in their 79 runs for the 6th wicket. Just when the Australians seemed to have firmly closed the door on Pakistan, Yasir Shah’s fizzing leg-breaks tilted the balance of the game. After trapping Khawaja leg before, after his memorable knock, Yasir immediately sent back tail-enders Starc and Siddle to inject life into the proceedings. It was all quite tense as Pakistan still needed two wickets in the remaining 12.4 overs to go one up in the series. Despite throwing everything at the opposition they failed in their bid for victory, as Tim Paine played a captain’s knock. His unbeaten 61 off 219 balls, in a 3 ¼ hour stay at the wicket, represents a proud moment of satisfaction for the 33-year old Tasmanian.
The Pakistan camp must be bitterly disappointed for not winning the first Test against a side that collapsed so dramatically on the third day. Off-spinner Bilal Asif and left-arm paceman Wahab Riaz were not allowed to play any role on the final day Dubai wicket. Having gone wicket-less in 29 overs in the opening session today added the pressure of claiming seven wickets in last two sessions on a wicket that did not misbehave as a much as was predicted by the pundits. Yasir Shah, with a year out of Test cricket, is still not at is best but should be pleased with his return of 4-110 in Australia’s second innings. The Pakistan management might be tempted to replace Wahab Riaz, in and out of the team, and with only 27 appearances in 8 years with either another pacemen for the second Test, starting in five days’ time in Abu Dhabi. The 18-man squad includes Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf and Mir Hamza, as possible replacement for Wahab, who at 33 does not seem to have enough venom to run through international sides.
©Cricket World 2018