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

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Report

Australia’s lower order folded in the first 20 minutes of play on a docile deck

Pakistan 476 for 4 dec and 76 for 0 (Imam 40*, Shafique 33*) lead Australia 459 (Khawaja 97, Labuschagne 90, Smith 78, Nauman 6-107) by 93 runs

Pakistan openers Imam-ul-Haq and Abdullah Shafique confidently blunted Australia’s attack on a benign Rawalpindi pitch on the fifth day, as the first Test inched closer to a stale draw.

Having bowled out Australia within the opening 20 minutes of the session, Pakistan reached lunch at 76 for 0 with Imam 40 not out and Abdullah unbeaten on 33. The hosts have an overall lead of 93 runs.

Any fears of being unexpectedly bundled out, something like England in the famous ‘Amazing Adelaide’ 2006 Ashes Test, were negated by the openers on a wicket that has been labelled as “dead” by Steve Smith and set to be further put under the microscope post-match.

Unlike their dour batting across 162 overs in the first innings, where they were intent on grinding Australia into the ground, Pakistan’s openers played more adventurously, perhaps a bid to gain a psychological edge heading into the second Test starting on March 12.

A confident Imam, fresh off his maiden Test century in the first innings, was in an aggressive mood marked by occasionally charging spinner Nathan Lyon and hitting down the ground. Shafique, who threw away his wicket on 44 in the first innings, looked solid as the pair marched towards their second century stand of the match.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Pakistan with Imam hit on the arm by a brute of a delivery from captain Pat Cummins, who has been the only Australian quick to take a wicket in the match.

With little assistance on offer, Australia’s bowlers couldn’t conjure a breakthrough but Lyon probed on noticeable rough patches and conjured some excitement that has been lacking for bowlers in these batting-dominant conditions.

After three consecutive truncated days, eroding crucial overs amid a stalemate, play started 15 minutes early on a day five where 98 overs have been scheduled to be bowled.

Resuming at 449 for 7, there was intrigue whether Australia would throw the bat in a bid to try and force an unlikely result. Instead they lost 3-10 in 19 balls to be bowled out for 459 and trail by 17 runs on the first innings.

Left-arm spinner Nauman Ali needed just three balls to claim his third fifth wicket Test haul after dismissing Cummins for eight. The 35-tear-old wrapped up the innings with the scalp of Lyon to finish with a career-best 6 for 107 marked by eking out Smith and Cameron Green with defensive bowling late on day four.

Shaheen Shah Afridi, who has been the standout quick in the match, trapped Mitchell Starc lbw to finish with 2 for 88 from an energetic 30 overs.

Having fielded for almost the entire opening two days, Australia should be well pleased with their strong fightback to almost reach Pakistan’s mammoth first innings of 476 for 4 although none of their batters were able to score a century.

They also lost 6 for 52 after appearing favoured to take a first innings lead after such a commanding start, where Australia’s top four notched half-centuries in an overseas Test for the first time since 2008 in Delhi.

Having had no warm-up matches, in their first tour of Pakistan since 1998, Australia will feel considerably match hardened as they soon head to Karachi with the series almost certainly deadlocked.

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth

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