Mohammad Abbas took three wickets without conceding a run as Pakistan gained the upper hand in the first Test against Australia in Dubai.
Australia made a strong start in the chase of a mammoth 462-run target. Openers Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja continued from where they had left of in the first innings, adding 87 for the first wicket on day four after adding 142 in the opening essay. But Abbas took the scalps of Finch, Shaun and Mitchell Marsh with the score on 87 to break Australia’s back.
The visitors have a mountain to climb as they went to stumps on 136-3.
Pakistan had earlier declared their second inning on 181-6 right after lunch. Opener Imam-ul-Haq made 48 while middle order batsman Asad Shafiq hit 41 from 56 balls as Sarfraz Ahmed looked to give Australia a tough target while providing his bowlers enough time to take 10 wickets.
Here we take stock of what happened on day four.
Aussie openers – Khawaja and Finch at the top of the order have looked unflappable. Their backfoot play against the spinners was particularly impressive. Leg-spinner Yasir Shah was turning the ball a mile from the rough while bowling from round the stumps but Khawaja negotiated it admirably, playing late and with soft hands.
Abbas’ control – While the spotlight was on Pakistan’s debutant off-spinner Bilal Asif and his six-wicket haul, it’s veteran seamer Mohammad Abbas who has proven to be the most difficult to negotiate. His nagging line and late movement as the ball got older was almost impossible to negotiate as he bowled stumps to stumps to right-handers to bring lbw into play. He first got one to dip into Aaron finch to have the batsman lbw before forcing Shaun to poke outside off to be caught behind. A full ball which stayed low had Mitchell lbw as the Aussies went from 87-0 to 87-3.
Mitchell Marsh’s forgettable match – The Aussie all-rounder was appointed one of two new vice-captains of the Test team. One of the reasons given was his ‘lineage’. Unfortunately, Mitchell had a horrible match in Dubai. He bowled just 10 overs in the first innings and none in the second and his returns with the bat were similarly poor. He managed just 12 in the first outing before falling lbw for a duck in the second.
Shah wicketless –In a match with Pakistan on top, leg-spinner Yasir is yet to pick up a wicket. On a pitch with more than enough purchase for the slow bowlers, the leggie failed to find a scalp in 28 overs in the first innings and didn’t pick up a wicket on Wednesday. The pressure will be on Shah to make an impact as his indifferent display will put pressure on other bowlers to attack.
Aussie spinners take over – Pakistan’s second innings was all about scoring runs as quickly as possible. Captain Tim Paine realised that and decided not to try anything fancy with the quick bowlers as they could have leaked extra runs. Out of the 57.5 overs that Pakistan played, offie Nathan Lyon delivered 25.5 and left-arm spinner Jon Holland 20. That forced Pakistan to bat after lunch and it gave the visitors that extra cushion.
29.4 overs Abbas removes Finch– Aussie openers made a strong start again, adding 87. But the hosts knew it was a matter of just one wicket and the floodgates would open. Seamer Abbas, who had impressed thoroughly with his four wicket haul in the first innings, returned to sneak one through the defence of Finch to have the opener lbw.
31.4 overs Abbas removes Mitchell – The middle order bat needed to make a statement but was well beaten by one that darted in late and stayed low to be out leg before. Australia lost three wickets for the same score of 87 and the momentum with it.
KEY TURNING POINT
Decision to review Mitchell call
Mitchell was given not out to a low one from Abbas but Sarfraz decided to review as it looked adjacent. The bat and pad were close but replayed showed the ball hit the pad first. The ball was hitting the stumps and the decision was overturned.
A superb effort from Pakistan to stay positive despite another solid opening stand from the Australian openers. The perseverance of all bowlers, including Abbas, was exceptional and it was mainly down to experienced members in the team knowing it was just about being patient.
The visitors tried their best. Their spinners bowled a bulk of the overs and which forced Pakistan to bat after lunch. Then their openers pit their heads down and negotiated whatever was thrown at them. Take Abbas’s brilliance out of the equation and Australia did very well against all bowlers.
Pakistan left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman announced his retirement from international cricket on Wednesday.
The left-arm spinner is best known for his sensational 2012 Test series in the UAE against England when Pakistan blanked the then world No1 team 3-0. He took 19 wickets in three Tests at an average of 16, decimating England alongside off-spinner Saeed Ajmal.
Rehman also played in the 2010 World T20 and the 2011 World Cup. And as he signed off from international cricket, Rehman said the only regret he has is of not having 100 Test wickets; he has 99 from 22 matches.
“I had a memorable career. Allah gave me an opportunity. I had a great partnership with Saeed Ajmal. I can’t forget the England series in which we clean swept them. I have played World Cup and World T20, so very grateful,” Rehman, who last played Test cricket in 2014, said in a video statement.
“The only pain I have is… if I had 100 Test wickets, I would have been ecstatic. Still 99 wickets in 22 Tests, very few left-arm spinners have that record.” Rehman will continue to play domestic cricket.
The hosts opted not to enforce the follow on and at stumps were 45 for three wickets, with Aussie spinners Jon Holland taking two wickets and Nathan Lyon another, for an overall lead of 325.
It all started so well for the tourists on day three. After a strong morning session they cruised to 137 without loss at lunch but Pakistan hit back in the afternoon to wreak havoc on the Aussies’ batting line-up as they lost all 10 wickets for just 60 runs.
Debutant Bilal Asif was the chief destroyer, taking a stunning six for 36 off 21.3 overs, including dismissing two of Australia’s three debutants – Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne – both in the same over and both without scoring.
Australia will be batting for survival at some point on day four but the way the Aussie bats performed on their first trip to the crease, everything points to a Pakistan victory to put the hosts 1-0 up in the series heading to Abu Dhabi.
What a collapse! Australia go from 142/0 to 202 all out thanks to 6/36 from debutant Bilal Asif and 4/29 from Mohammad Abbas. They trail by 280 runs, Pakistan do not enforce the follow-on.#PAKvAUS LIVE ➡️ https://t.co/sRNIJtvl02 pic.twitter.com/5cu4Q3ETXM— ICC (@ICC) October 9, 2018
Bilal Asif – Everyone was asking “Yasir Shah who?” after the debutant tormented Australia’s batting line-up, taking six wickets including five of the top seven. Meanwhile the much-feared Yasir went wicket-less with the far from impressive figures of 80-0 off 28 overs. But Asif used his height superbly to drop his off-spinners on a good length and let the pitch and poor Aussie batting do the rest. Everyone will now be asking a different question – why has it taken Asif 33 years to make his Test debut?
Aussie openers – It was all going so well in the morning session for the tourists with Usman Khawaja and Aaron Finch relatively untroubled by Pakistan’s pace and spin. Finch moved smoothly to his maiden Test fifty while Khawaja, apart from a few risky reverse sweeps, looked very comfortable as he passed 60. Everything changed after Finch failed to keep an on-drive down on 62, sparking a stunning Aussie collapse.
Poor Australian shot selection – Australia were in command at lunch sitting on 142-0 and Pakistan looking deflated, but then poor shots from Aaron Finch and Shaun Marsh opened the door for the hosts. First Finch failed to keep an on-drive down and then Marsh went for a wild swoosh down the ground which saw him edge to slip. The momentum was back with the hosts.
Yasir Shah fails to live up to expectations – So much was expected of the leg-spinner leading up to the Test, with all Australia’s plans revolving around how to counter the tricky right-armer, who was the fifth fastest bowler in Test cricket to 100 wickets. But whether he is still struggling with injury or not Yasir failed to get any bounce or bite out of the pitch – unlike the superb Bilal Asif – and even dropped a straight forward return catch from Mitchell Marsh.
In the space of 5yrs Bilal Asif's gone from quitting cricket for a job in the gulf to coming back to the Sialkot club scene, being mentored by Shoaib Malik up to domestic cricket, leading to him playing for Pak as a t20 specialist, getting banned & now back in the Gulf for this.— Hassan Cheema (@mediagag) October 9, 2018
16.3: Missed stumping – Khawaja dances down the wicket and the ball spins past him down leg-side. He is way out of his ground but Sarfraz cannot gather the ball. Huge let-off for Australia.
33.1: Fifty for Finch – the opener brings up fifty in his debut Test with a lofted sweep through square leg. It also brings up the 100 for Australia without loss.
51.4: Shafiq takes a sharp catch to dismiss Finch – The Aussie opener will be kicking himself. Looking comfortable on 62, he fails to keep an on-drive down off Abbas and Shafiq, positioned at short mid-on, takes the catch. Threw away a maiden Test hundred.
62.1: Yasir drops Mitchell Marsh – with Australia on the ropes after losing three quick wickets. Shah drops a straight forward return catch from the Aussie vice-captain. The ball was moving, but not that fast, and should have been comfortably taken but Shah seemed to lose the flight of the ball.
65th over: Pakistan debutant destroys Aussie debutants – In one over Pakistan off-spinner Asif, in his maiden Test, turned the game on its head with the dismissal of two of Australia’s three debutants for ducks. Firstly Head went with hard hands at an off drive and edged to slip, and then Labuschagne prodded forward nervously and edged a bat-pad chance to short leg. It triggered the great Aussie collapse.
It's Pakistan's day in Dubai after Australia collapsed to 202 all out, but three wickets fall before stumps to leave the hosts 45/3 in their second innings, leading by 325 runs. #PAKvAUS scorecard ➡️ https://t.co/sRNIJtvl02 pic.twitter.com/xmcVk2OdLd— ICC (@ICC) October 9, 2018
TACTICAL TURNING POINT
Pakistan change their attack
The Australians were cruising before lunch and looking well-set against the Pakistan spinners. But in the afternoon session the hosts made a clever switch, bringing on the fast bowlers to attack what they saw was a weakness around the pads of Finch and Khawaja. It worked perfectly, with first Pakistan slowing the run-rate, and then finally getting Finch to play a loose shot. The opener’s avoidable dismissal changed the game with Pakistan taking the remaining nine wickets for just 60 runs.
A superb day for the hosts. Outplayed in the morning, they changed tact in the afternoon session to get the initial breakthrough and then kept their foot on the throat of the Aussie bats, refusing to let them get back up off the canvas. A winning position.
Hopes were very high for the Aussies’ new-look team coming into the Test, but when the blowtorch was applied the men in Baggy Green wilted away. Khawaja and Finch had given them a great platform but the rest of the batsmen folded like a house of cards.