OUT! The day ends with Mohammad Abbas removing Peter Siddle. Appeals for LBW were turned down but it looked plumb and Sarfraz reviews. Three reds show up on the screen and that's the way the day ends. Australia are 20/2 and Pakistan will fancy their chances tomorrow, especially given how much the pitch is turning.
The touring Tim Paine-led Australian side batted for close to 140 overs to stave off defeat in the first Test against Pakistan at Dubai and managed to give a good account of their batting prowess. While it was a great escape for Australia, Pakistan will treat this as an opportunity lost. Pakistan boast of an excellent record in UAE losing just one series here till now — against Sri Lanka — and would like to continue to torment visiting sides in their adopted home. But before the second Test begins in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, there could be a few issues that Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed and team management would want to address. Their star opener Imam-ul-Haq, who scored 76 & 48 in the first match and formed crucial partnerships with Mohammad Hafeez at the top of the order, will miss the second Test owing to a fractured finger. This could pave way for senior batsman Azhar Ali on top who didn’t really show good form in Dubai. Despite boasting a brilliant record as an opener — 1512 runs in 35 innings at an average of 47.25 — what could worry Pakistan is that Azhar is short of runs this year having scored only 95 runs in four matches.
Azhar though has sounded confident of making useful contributions for the team in future and leave his bad patch behind. “The key to batting will be to be patient and look for opportunities to score and try and absorb the pressure," Ali said. "It is the key even when you are facing the new ball or batting in any time of the day. The important thing is to stay focused and try and believe that once you get a good knock behind you, things will start rolling again." Until the last day of Dubai Test, the match was in Pakistan’s grip but their bowlers failed to apply enough pressure to bundle Australia out. The star of first innings Bilal Asif went wicketless in the second dig, while Yasir Shah and Wahab Riaz struggled too. Bowling on these placid tracks is an art that Pakistan seem to have mastered, but faltered against Australia. Even though that could be a one-off instance, it could hamper their confidence. Reacting to the situation Ali said, "We are not disheartened but, yes, disappointed, obviously after dominating the Test match throughout and then not winning it. Unfortunately, we couldn't win but I think we also have to give credit to the Australians as well as they showed resilience and kept fighting till the end. The positive thing is that we played good cricket in all the sessions apart from one or two. We are a young side and there are players who have not played that many Tests and still performed well. We have to carry these positives and more forward."
Coming to Australia, they will be riding high on confidence that they got from their batting effort in Dubai. What was heartening to see was debutant Aaron Finch’s ability to play according to the match situation with senior partner Usman Khawaja. The onus will be on the opening duo once again to do bulk of the scoring with middle-order heavily misfiring at the moment. Right from Marsh brothers to all-rounder Marnus Labuschagne, all failed to provide stability. But a 72 in the second innings from Travis Head could mean a promotion in the batting order for the southpaw. Even Paine hinted at a ‘tweak’ in the batting order. “Top six will be the same as the last Test. We may consider tweaking the batting order. I know guys had their individual meetings yesterday and all that stuff was discussed." In the bowling department, a lot of work needs to be done by comeback man Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc, with the latter already showing some fitness concerns. But this Australian team, which is still looking to come to terms with the loss of star players like David Warner and Steve Smith, has the single-biggest driving force to win — to prove their critics wrong. "It'd be a massive thing for any Australian side, and for this one in particular. I touched on it last week that not many people gave us a chance over here, which is a great opportunity for us to prove people wrong and a great thing to keep driving us.”
Pakistan (From): Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed(w/c), Bilal Asif, Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Abbas, Usman Salahuddin, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan
Australia (From): Usman Khawaja, Aaron Finch, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Tim Paine(w/c), Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon, Jon Holland, Ashton Agar, Brendan Doggett, Michael Neser, Matt Renshaw