Pakistan‘s centurion Haris Sohail revealed he cut out all the noise, including some verbal taunts from the Australian players, to notch up his maiden international century during the first Test in Dubai.
Sohail dug deep to score 110 off 240 balls in tough conditions on a slow pitch and heavy outfield against a disciplined Australian attack. The century was a big relief for Sohail as he had made two 39s during the Test series in England and a 28.
Those starts gave Sohail the confidence that runs are just round the corner. And even a few words from an Australian side made to field for nearly two days in the Dubai heat didn’t knock him off course.
“When you score your first Test ton, the excitement is different. In the previous series in England I got out in the 30s. But I learned a lot from those 30s as I panicked there at times. My effort in this innings was to not panic. I knew the runs would come,” Sohail said after the end of day two in Dubai.
“I am straightforward man. If (the Australians) did say something to me … I didn’t even look at them to be honest. They did say a couple of things but it went in one ear and out of the other,” the left-handed batsman added.
Following the ball-tampering and sledging scandal in South Africa earlier in the year, Australian players including Tim Paine have gone to great lengths to distance themselves from that ‘ugly’ image. But it looks like there is still some room for a few words when the pressure is on.
Sohail said scoring was tough against the old ball and a heavy outfield but maintained the team is pleased with their score of 482, even though they looked set for a bigger total after being 410-4 at one stage.
“At one stage the seam came off the ball. They didn’t take the new ball,” he added. “The ball became so soft, it was very difficult to score runs even when you timed the ball well. We knew when the new ball would come we would score runs. And that’s exactly what happened.
“On this pitch, where runscoring is difficult, the pitch is slow and the outfield is heavy, it is a good score.”
Pronunciations, absent crowds and quiet Australians – here’s our diary from day on day two of the First Test between Pakistan and Australia in Dubai.
Much confusion at the Test has revolved around how to pronounce Aussie Test debutant Marnus Labuschagne’s name, especially in the Pakistan media.
Labuschagne hails from Klerksdorp in South Africa and when he arrived in Australia at the age of ten he didn’t speak any English, knowing only his native tongue Afrikaans.
The pronunciation of his name in Afrikaans is “La-boo-skak-nay” but in an effort to assimilate Marnus began pronouncing his name “La-boo-shane” as in “pane”.
The Aussies won’t care too much about how you say his name at the moment as he was one of the stars on day two, getting a huge brea through with the wicket of Asad Shafiq thanks to his occasional leg spin, caught behind by Tim Paine.
He then combined again with Paine for the run out of the dangerous Babar Azam with a sharp throw from cover.
The 24-year-old Queenslander should also have had the wicket of Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed on eight but another debutant, Aaron Finch, dropped the sharp chance at first slip.
At least Finch made up for it running out Sarfraz after he had added just seven more runs.
Where have all the people gone?
A real talking point in the first two days of the Test, especially among the visiting media, has been the lack of a crowd.
The Australians are used to playing in front of tens of thousands of spectators at great sporting cathedrals like the Sydney Cricket Ground and Gabba.
So a deserted Dubai International Cricket Stadium (DISC) is a far cry from a packed MCG on the first morning of an Ashes Test.
Indeed there was probably more people watching David Warner’s recent century in a grade cricket match at Coogee Oval in Sydney than there is at this Test between the No3 and No7 Test teams in the world.
The DISC seats 25,000 on its shades of blue seating so the paucity of bodies is noticeable everywhere you look.
According to the few who are at the ground, there were more people on day two than day one and the figure was helped by Dubai Sports City inviting a local school group to come and help fill some seats – they cheered on every Pakistan run with great excitement.
With so few spectators at DISC, it made the noise level at the ground very quiet so you can hear virtually everything that’s happening out in the middle. And what is most noticeable is the distinct absence of “chat” by the Australian team to the batsmen.
Whereas in the past an Aussie team would be getting right up in the face of their opponents, needling, discomforting, distracting, essentially doing anything they can to try and get a wicket – this Australian team are demure in contrast.
There has been some gentle encouragement for their bowlers but none of the bite and snarl that has become synonymous with the Baggy Green.
Even pace bowlers Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc have refrained from a few verbals as the batsmen have trotted past for a run.
Captain Paine said before the Test that Australia would be professional and respectful – and they have been both, as well as disciplined.
But watching this Aussies team is sort of like curry without spice – it looks like curry and tastes like curry but something is definitely missing.
Following on from Mohammad Hafeez’s superb comeback century on the first day the star of the day with the bat was 29-year-old Haris Sohail, who – playing in just his sixth Test – scored a fine 110.
Sohail was made to work hard by an Australian bowling attack that showed impressive consistency through 165 long overs in the field and eventually got their reward picking up the last six Pakistan wickets for just 72.
Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur will be cursing a couple of needless run outs which gave Australia a glimmer of hope when the hosts were on track for a huge first innings total.
With the hosts dismissed for 482 and Australia 30 without loss at the end of day two, much will depend on how the pitch holds together in the next three days and the havoc Pakistan leg-spinner Yasir Shah can wreak.
Haris Sohail’s cover drives – In just his sixth Test the left hander brought up his maiden century with a sparkling array of drives off the Aussie pacemen. With so little bounce in the track it meant the 29-year-old could get forward with confidence and he dispatched the Australians regularly with two perfectly executed cover drives off Peter Siddle standing tall as the shots of the day.
Aussie stamina – 165 overs is a long time in the field for any team, especially in the Dubai late summer heat; Pakistan’s innings was the fifth longest in UAE history. But the Aussies toiled away manfully, probing for any chink in Pakistan’s armour. Importantly they found a final burst of energy to roll out the last three Pakistan batsmen for just 12 runs, regaining some control in a match that was slipping completely out of reach. Coach Justin Langer will be very pleased with his side’s fitness levels.
Pakistan run outs – Coach Arthur was fuming after two run outs robbed his team of an even greater first innings total. Firstly Pakistan were coasting along at 418-5 when Haris Sohail needlessly called Babar Azam through for a risky single. Then on 480 Sarfraz Ahmed dawdled on his way for a relatively easy run allowing Aaron Finch to throw him out at the non-striker’s end. It reduced a likely score of 550 plus to 482.
Starc accuracy – It’s very rare that Aussie paceman Mitchell Starc bowls 36 overs without getting a wicket. The NSW left armer generated some good pace on Monday but he got precious little assistance from the wicket and his radar was definitely off allowing the Pakistan batsmen to pick him off for 90 runs. On the plus side he showed there are certainly no doubts about his fitness levels, and he finally picked up a wicket in his 37th over, but his line needs to be better in the second dig.
143.4 Labuschagne surprises Shafiq – Pakistan were cruising along at 410-4 with Shafiq on 80 and Sohail on 87, the pair putting together a partnership of exactly 150. Then out of nowhere Test debutant Marnus Labuschagne got one of his leggies to turn and Shafiq got an outside edge snapped up sharply by keeper-captain Tim Paine. It opened the door a little for Australia and Pakistan lost their next five wickets quickly.
146.4 Sohail runs out Azam – Pakistan were still in control at 418-5 with the dangerous Azam joining Sohail at the crease. But in a moment of madness Sohail called through Azam for a risky single and Labuschagne did the rest with a pinpoint throw from cover. Another huge momentum swing to the Aussies.
155.3 Nathan Lyon nicks out Sohail – After an impressive maiden century the left hander was looking to take Pakistan past the 500 mark but the Aussie off-spinner skidded one through outside the off-stump, Paine taking another sharp catch.
KEY TURNING POINT
Pakistan up the run rate
The hosts seem determined just to occupy the crease for the first part of the day with Haris Sohail and Asad Shafiq crawling along in the first session; Sohail scoring 46 runs of a mammoth 132 balls (SR: 34.85) by lunch and Shafiq 43 off 82 balls (52.44). But they were clearly told to pick it up after lunch with Sohail scoring his next 64 runs off just 108 balls (SR: 59.26). This was aided by captain Sarfraz Ahmed who scored a brisk 15 off 28 balls and Bilal Asif with 12 off 22.
Pakistan B +
The hosts would have hoped for at least 500 on the board. They were superbly poised at 410-4 and then let the momentum slip to lose the last six wickets for just 72 and give Australia some breathing space. Need to bowl well on Tuesday.
The Aussies must be admired for the way they kept the pressure throughout Pakistan’s innings – all 165 overs of it – and did not let the hosts take the game out of reach. It’s all over to the batsman now and Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja have started well.