Recent Match Report – Pakistan vs Australia 1st Test 2021/22



Marnus Labuschagne also ended unbeaten on 69 after fifties from both openers, as Khawaja fell for 97

Stumps Australia 271 for 2 (Khawaja 97, Labuschagne 69*, Warner 68, Nauman 1-49) trail Pakistan 476 for 4 dec by 205 runs

Usman Khawaja fell agonisingly short of a century in the country of his birth, but an under-pressure Australia mustered a strong batting response on the third day of the first Test against Pakistan. In reply to Pakistan’s massive first innings of 476, Australia were 271 for 2 at stumps in their long road back into the series-opener in Rawalpindi.
Marnus Labuschagne, the No.1-ranked Test batter in the world, lived up to top billing and relished the flat pitch to be unbeaten on 69 while Steven Smith also looked untroubled on 24 not out at stumps.

Just before the close, Smith, who averaged just 30 in the Ashes at home last summer, was left startled after Shaheen Shah Afridi lost control of a full toss which was deemed a no-ball, with the left-arm quick also receiving a warning.

Play ended an hour early due to bad light for the second consecutive day, although 72 overs were bowled on a day three predicted to be impacted by rain.

After enduring almost two full days in the field during a tough start to their first overseas tour since mid-2019, Australia’s top-order responded to the challenge with gusto to claw back into the historic contest.

They showed an aggressive appetite in a contrast to Pakistan’s top three’s measured batting, as openers Khawaja and David Warner would have been left frustrated not replicating the big tons of Azhar Ali and Imam-ul-Haq.
Recalled as opener, Khawaja, who was on the cusp of a third Test century in five innings since his comeback, was dismissed on 97 by left-arm spinner Nauman Ali after bungling a reverse-sweep which hit the glove and popped to short leg.

The originally not out decision on the field was overturned after replays showed that the ball had hit high on the glove of Khawaja, who had until then played the risky stroke to good effect throughout his 159-ball innings.

Having quickly mustered 70 in the first session, Khawaja was held in check after lunch by tighter Pakistan bowling as the hosts hit back by removing Australia’s openers during a combative second session.

After a brisk 156-run opening partnership, where Australia’s aggression rattled an increasingly wayward Pakistan attack, Warner fell for 68 having missed a skidding delivery from offspinner Sajid Khan which smashed his middle stump. Having started slowly, Warner showcased renowned aggression as his innings wore on, but might rue backing away in an error of judgement.

But Labuschagne, who has played just seven of his 24 Tests away from Australia, looked in ominous form, mixing gorgeous drives with reverse-sweeps to negate the spinners. He had looked less comfortable at the start of his innings when he was pitted in an intriguing contest with quick Naseem Shah, who hit him with a thunderbolt on the arm during a withering spell in the second session.

Labuschagne struggled initially against left-armer Nauman, who had a disastrous spell pre-lunch, but settled and unleashed his reverse-sweep effectively against the offspin of Sajid, who had started to conjure spin off the flat pitch.

Labuschagne and Smith, who traditionally bat so well in tandem, will be aiming to build on their blossoming 68-run partnership with Australia still needing work to do to approach Pakistan’s huge total.

But it was a patchy performance from Pakistan’s bowlers who created more opportunities than Australia’s pedestrian effort with the ball, as they mostly struggled to rein in the scoring. They will especially rue reprieving Khawaja on 22 when a luckless Afridi set him up perfectly with a full-pitched delivery, only for Fawad Alam to shell a straightforward chance at gully.

Pakistan lost their early momentum after Afridi and Naseem conjured pace, bounce and movement in a blistering start. Helped by cool and cloudy conditions, Afridi found away swing and bowled a gem of an opening over to Warner to kick-start a dangerous spell.

After a tough initiation where he scored just 11 off 45 balls, Warner cracked Naseem for consecutive boundaries through the off side to get him rolling. The fired-up quick then went around the wicket and struck Warner on the back of the shoulder with a nasty bouncer. Naseem then went down the pitch to give him an earful only for Warner to diffuse the situation with a laugh.

The barnstorming morning session yielded 138 runs and contrasted with a dour opening two days, when an unwavering Pakistan had blunted tight bowling and batted for 162 overs.

And although Australia were unable to maintain that rapid scoring pace after both openers fell, but should be pleased with their first dominant day of the series on their first tour to Pakistan since 1998.

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth


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