KARACHI: Opener Usman Khawaja raced to a first Test century in the country of his birth on Saturday as Australia ended the opening day of the second Test against Pakistan on a commanding 251-3 in Karachi.
The 35-year-old has made the most of a recall to the national side, missing out on a hundred in the first Test at Rawalpindi by three runs after scoring centuries in both innings in his return match against England.
His unbeaten 127 included 13 boundaries and a six with Steve Smith (72) providing support at the other end until he fell to a sharp Hasan Ali delivery with seven balls left in the day.
The ball made Smith play and barely carried to slip where Faheem Ashraf pounced to his left for a brilliant grab.
Pakistan could have claimed another wicket on the day’s final ball but Imam-ul-Haq put down nightwatchman Nathan Lyon at short leg off Shaheen Shah Afridi.
Australian captain Pat Cummins won the toss and elected to bat on a dry pitch, and for a brief moment at the end of the first session, his decision appeared questionable when the visitors lost two quick wickets.
All-rounder Faheem Ashraf — recalled after missing the first Test due to injury — snagged the first breakthrough, getting the ball to nip away and drawing an edge from David Warner (36) straight into the gloves of keeper Mohammad Rizwan.
Marnus Labuschagne was run out for nought nine deliveries later. But from then till the second last over of the day Australia looked in complete control with Khawaja leading the charge.
He pushed spinner Sajid Khan for a sharp single towards square leg to reach the landmark, punching the air to celebrate his tenth Test ton — drawing applause from a crowd of 10,000 people at the National Stadium.
He first put on a solid 82-run stand for the opening wicket with Warner, who looked dangerous and greeted Sajid into the attack with two sixes.
Then Khawaja repaired the innings alongside Smith, who struck seven boundaries in a cautious 35th Test half-century.
The duo frustrated Pakistan’s attack forcing spinners Nauman Ali and Sajid to resort to a negative leg-side line to contain the runs and only 36 were scored in the hour after tea in 17 overs.
Pakistan skipper Babar Azam came on to bowl and used part-timer Azhar Ali on the other end to complete the 80 overs before the second new ball, with the score at 235-2.
Australia made one change for the match, with leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson making his Test debut in place of pacer Josh Hazlewood, while Pakistan have brought in Hasan Ali and Ashraf.
Australia are on their first tour of Pakistan since 1998, having previously refused to visit the country over security fears.
The third and final Test is in Lahore from March 21-25.