Yasir returned to the five-day game for the first time in a year after recovering from a hip injury but the leg-spinner, identified by many to play a decisive role in the series, wasn’t at his best.
The 32-year-old went wicketless in the first four days of the first Test but came alive on the final day, taking four scalps including centurion Usman Khawaja but Australia held on for a thrilling draw in Dubai on Thursday.
He finished the match with figures of 4-194 but Sarfraz insists the way Yasir claimed his four wickets was enough to suggest he can produce the goods consistently when the second and final Test in Abu Dhabi begins on Tuesday.
“He is playing a Test match after almost one year,” said Sarfraz. “He bowled well in domestic matches but there is a lot more pressure in a Test match. This was his first game so hopefully he will bounce back strongly in the next match. He is our main bowler and we need to support him because he has been a great performer for Pakistan in the past.”
One of the bowlers who impressed for Pakistan was Test debutant Bilal Asif. The 33-year-old off-spinner had a strong start to his red-ball international career, taking six wickets in the first innings. However, he wasn’t able to replicate that in the second, finishing with 0-87.
Sarfraz admits pressure may have got to Asif in the second innings but believes he will play a vital role in the series.
“In the first innings, he got great bounce, had good pace and got wickets. On the fourth day, you have to bowl different. We have discussed with him. He does not have much experience with first-class cricket too. We told him how to bowl on the fifth day and how to create pressure. He has just started and is a great bowler. I think he can be a great performer for Pakistan.”
Ultimately, Pakistan were denied by the brilliance of Khawaja, hitting 141 runs to register his seventh Test century. The opener batted nearly the entire day on Thursday and while he was dismissed by Yasir, Tim Paine’s battling half-century ensured the tourists held on for a draw.
Former Pakistan batsman Rameez Raja described Khawaja’s efforts as one of the best fourth-inning knocks he had seen in Asia and Sarfraz agreed.
“I cannot praise Usman Khawaja’s innings enough, he played an extraordinary innings,” he added. “He carried the entire team almost alone and he got great support from Travis Head. Some of the shots he played on the fifth day of a Test against out bowlers like the sweeps and reverse sweeps, it was very frustrating.
“We had done really well to get in a position to win but that is why Test cricket is so beautiful. A team can draw a match from a losing position. We tried our best but they played really well.”
The Baggy Greens went into the fifth and final day at Dubai International Stadium on 136-3 in their second innings, knowing they would have to bat the full 90 overs to save the match and they did exactly that.
Khawaja, who batted nearly the entire day, reached his hundred off 224 balls and when he was trapped lbw by Yasir Shah, he scored 141 runs from 302 deliveries. Yasir later struck twice in one over to remove Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle to set up a frantic finish.
Travis Head (72) scored his maiden Test half-century while Pakistan needed two wickets in the final five overs. The Men in Green got close to completing the job but skipper Tim Paine (61) and Nathan Lyon (5) ensured the draw to remain unbeaten as Australia finished 362-8.
For Pakistan, Yasir was the pick of the bowlers with 4-114. The teams will meet again in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday for the second and final Test.
Here, we look at the talking points from the final day of the Test.
When Australia needed their batsmen to stand up, they surely did. But one man stole the show and that was Khawaja. Prior to the match, the 31-year-old had scored six Test centuries – all of which came on home soil. Questions were raised whether he could replicate that outside home conditions. On Thursday, we got the answer as the Pakistan-born batsman scored a superb 141. The signs were already there when he scored 85 in the first innings and when the pressure was on, resuming play on 50, went on to score his seventh Test century in 224 balls. Bearing the hot climate, it was a remarkable effort from the opener with former Pakistan international Rameez Raja hailing it as one of the best knocks he’s seen in the UAE. Even when Khawaja was in the 90s, with three fielders on the leg-side, he wasn’t afraid to go for the reverse-sweep, which he has mastered considering the number of times he pulled the shot during the day.
Usman Khawaja has scored more first class runs (392*) in five innings in Asia in 2018 than he did in 17 first class innings in Asia before 2018. Khawaja's success is a result of attacking more (33% v 22%), coming down the track more (14% v 4%) & sweeping more (15% v 6%). #PAKvAUS pic.twitter.com/WrGpjszCDM— Freddie Wilde (@fwildecricket) October 11, 2018
YASIR SHAH BACK TO HIS BEST
A lot of the talk in the build-up to the first Test was about the threat of leg-spinner Yasir. But in the past four days, the 32-year-old was largely a spectator, going wicketless as Mohammad Abbas and Bilal Asif claimed key wickets. That run ended on the final day when Test debutant Marmus Labuschagne became his first victim to fall after being trapped LBW. After a large spell in which the Aussies dominated, Yasir made the breakthrough again by trapping dangerman Khawaja. He again let the ball do the talking, striking twice in an over to remove Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle.
IMAM-UL-HAQ PAYS THE PRICE WITH INJURY
Given that Pakistan were left seething that they could not wrap up a victory, they will have to do without the services of opening batsman Imam-ul-Haq for the second decisive Test in Abu Dhabi. The 22-year-old fractured his little finger while diving during fielding. His absence will be a huge blow considering he scored 76 runs in the first innings in Dubai.
PAKISTAN BOWLERS FAIL TO APPLY PRESSURE
Having bowled out the tourists in the first innings, Sarfraz would have been confident that his bowlers would complete the job. They nearly did, showing a lot of energy in the last session but that was missing from the very first ball as they allowed Australian batsmen to settle and pile on the runs.
60.3 – CHANCE
Travis Head comes out and attempts to sweep Yasir Shah. Fails to get contact but umpire doesn’t raise his finger.
61.4 – FIFTY
Head hits a single off Bilal Asif to bring up his maiden Test fifty.
77.5 – CHANCE
Usman Khawaja survives a review. Tries to defend the ball but misses it completely. Umpires gives it not out but TV replays show, Khawaja got just outside the line for the impact to stay umpire’s call.
80.1 – WICKET
Mohammad Hafeez gets his first wicket of the day, trapping Head for LBW.
86.1 – MILESTONE
Usman Khawaja tucks Mohammad Hafeez away for a single to bring up his century off 224 deliveries.
125.3 – WICKET
It’s a big one as Yasir traps Khawaja for 141. The batsman reviews it but goes against him.
KEY TURNING POINT
It came inside the first hour of play and Pakistan will be thinking of what could have been had Sarfraz Ahmed reviewed Travis Head’s LBW off Yasir. The debutant misread the delivery by trying the sweep and was fortunate not to be dismissed as TV replays showed the ball was hitting the middle stump with the debutant on 44. Head went on to score 72 which set the platform for Australia’s draw.
PAKISTAN – C
The result will feel like a defeat especially given they were so close. It was up to the bowlers to complete the job and while Yasir’s late wickets put Australia under pressure, it was a matter of too little too late.
AUSTRALIA – A+
Not many people would have given Australia hope when stumps was called on Wednesday. But the manner of how Paine and Co approached the innings and pulled off the draw deserves recognition. With three wickets down, the Aussies faced a gigantic task but Khawaja led the way while Paine and Nathan Lyon showed grit and determination to grind out a result even when the centurion departed.
The Sport360 team is in place bringing you the latest cricket news on Wednesday.
There is plenty of action to look forward to with day four of the First Test between Pakistan and Australia currently underway in Dubai.
11:30pm – Jason Holder defiant in the wake of Windies criticism
The criticisms levelled against the West Indies side following their defeat by an innings and 272 runs in the first Test against India has not gone down too well with skipper Jason Holder.
Holder pointed to West Indies’ dismal record of late in India as he sought to defend his side’s display in Rajkot.
Read what the Windies skipper had to say to his side’s critics here.
10:00pm – Eoin Morgan reveals weather frustrations in Sri Lanka
England captain Eoin Morgan was left crossing his fingers for kinder weather after the first one-day international against Sri Lanka was washed out in Dambulla.
Eyebrows have been raised at the decision to schedule the series before the end of the island’s rainy season – with tour operators in the region typically advising against holiday in October due to the weather.
Read what Morgan had to say on the subject here.
9:30pm – Chris Gayle backed to play in 2019 World Cup
Chris Gayle shocked one and all by opting to decline selection for his side’s upcoming ODI series against India but skipper Jason Holder is backing the stalwart to turn out for the West Indies in the 2019 ICC World Cup in England.
Read what the West Indies skipper had to say about future plans for Gayle here.
8:00pm – Gautam Gambhir says Prithvi Shaw still has a long way to go
Prithvi Shaw’s electric start to his international Test career has seen the youngster earn rave reviews from former and current players alike.
The Mumbai batsman’s free flowing game has seen him being compared to Virender Sehwag, one of the finest Test openers produced by the country. However, Sehwag’s former India and Delhi opening partner Gautam Gambhir believes such comparisons are premature.
Read what Gambhir had to say on Shaw’s rise here.
7:30pm – Adam Gilchrist backs Steve Smith to become Australia skipper again
Steve Smith is just halfway through serving his one-year ban from international cricket but former Australia wicketkeeper batsman Adam Gilchrist is backing him to retake the captaincy of the men’s team in the future.
Smith, along with his deputy David Warner, was served with a one-year ban from international and domestic cricket by Cricket Australia following the ball-tampering episode which occurred in Cape Town earlier this year.
Read what Gilchrist had to say about Smith’s comeback trail here.
7:00pm – Mohammad Abbas targets Pakistan record on final day
On a Dubai pitch where other fast bowlers have struggled to get much movement either with the old or new ball, Pakistan seamer Mohammad Abbas has been on top snaring seven wickets across two innings with a promise of more on the fifth and final day of the first Test against Australia.
The fast bowler is now on 49 wickets in his ninth Test, on the verge of becoming the fastest Pakistan pace bowler to the mark.
Read what the seamer had to say about attaining that record here.
6:45pm – First ODI between Sri Lanka and England washed out
Heavy rainfall at Dambulla halted proceedings in the first ODI between Sri Lanka and England with only 15 overs of play possible so far. With no respite in sight after several hours, the match was ultimately called off without any result.
Read more on the washed out result here.
5:00pm – Mohammad Abbas rocks Australia in Dubai Test
The penultimate day in the first Test between Pakistan and Australia at Dubai has drawn to a close with the hosts inching towards a commanding win. Having set Australia a stiff target of 462 to get on a deteriorating pitch, Pakistan seamer Mohammad Abbas claimed three wickets inside seven deliveries to put the hosts on top.
The Aussies ended day four at 136-3 with Usman Khawaja and Travis Head unbeaten at the crease. Read more on the day’s play in our live match report here. Our man Ajit Vijaykumar has been covering the action from the stadium. Read how he rated the two team’s on day four in his report-card here.
For a closer look at Abbas’ sensational spell on Wednesday, click here.
4:00pm – Rain halts play in first ODI at Dambulla
Heavy rainfall at Dambulla has halted proceedings in the first ODI between Sri Lanka and England with only 15 overs of play possible so far.
Sri Lanka skipper Dinesh Chandimal won the toss and elected to field first on an overcast day. Stay updated with the proceedings at Dambulla by following our live ball-by-ball updates here.
3:00pm – Pakistan spinner Abdur Rehman retires from international cricket
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.
Read more on this breaking story here.
1:00pm – Aussies strike but Pakistan on top
Pakistan took lunch at 155-5 but remained in control of the first Test against Australia in Dubai in Wednesday.
Pakistan stretched their lead to 461 after lunch and declared with the total on 181-6.
Catch all the live updates here.
12:30 pm – ICC acts tough
New T20 leagues are likely to find it tougher to get sanctions from the International Cricket Council in the future, while Test minnows like Afghanistan and Ireland can expect to play four-day Tests.
ICC manager Geoff Allardice said the vetting process will be stricter moving forward.
Read more here.
10:30 am – Olly Stone plays
England handed Olly Stone a debut as they began their winter travels with a one-day international in Dambulla.
The Warwickshire paceman has impressed during his first week with the senior international squad and made the XI for the first of five ODIs in Sri Lanka.
Read more here.