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COMMENT: Test cricket comes alive in gripping draw

Updated October 12, 2018

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Pakistan off-spinner Bilal Asif (L) celebrates with team-mates after taking the wicket of Australian opener Usman Khawaja during the first Test at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Tuesday. — File Photo / AFP
Pakistan off-spinner Bilal Asif (L) celebrates with team-mates after taking the wicket of Australian opener Usman Khawaja during the first Test at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Tuesday. — File Photo / AFP

AT the start of final day’s play yesterday hardly anyone could have predicted a draw in this first Test. In the end it turned out to be a gripping encounter as Australia tenaciously battled all the way to achieve a morale-boosting result to gain psychological points for next week’s second Test in Abu Dhabi.

Towards the dying moments of the game it was touch and go affair despite Pakistan bowlers having struggled all day against resilient defiance from the Australian batsmen, notably from the broad bat of Usman Khawaja, and yet still got perilously close to victory as the tourists were eight down with only 10 overs left in the Test.

The Australians, with a pedigree of staging memorable fight backs in Test history, produced yet another remarkable escape from the jaws of defeat to prevent Pakistan taking a 1-0 lead in the two-match series.

I suppose credit ought to be given to the Aussie batsmen and especially the left-handed Khawaja who batted for nearly eight and half hours for his 141 to keep his team’s hopes of saving the Test very much alive.

Khawaja’s 142-run partnership for the fourth wicket with Travis Head in fact laid the foundation for others to follow. Tim Paine, the Australian captain, played a remarkably solid innings himself to deny Pakistan. I would say that both the teams finished with honours even before heading off to Abu Dhabi.

However, having said that, I did not understand why Mohammad Abbas was not used first up in the morning and why Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed blundered in not taking a review when it was glaringly clear as a day light to everyone that Head seemed to be out.

But that are part and parcel of the game and that mistakes are often made.

The pitch, contrary to what everyone had expected on day five, played much better almost like it did on first two days Pakistan batsmen were on song.

Through history we know how difficult it becomes for the side batting last and especially when there is a huge target to chase as the case here. But all credit to Khawaja of Pakistan origin who is an expatriate in Australia. I must say the way he batted almost all through the day was simply magnificent, defending pace and spin with equal ease and showing tremendous powers of concentration and temperament, two virtues which are usually associated with Test batsmen of the highest quality.

Not one of the stylish left-handers that I have witnessed over the years to compare with Neil Harvey, Garfield Sobers or David Gower, Khawaja certainly however proved with his long vigil at the crease that in Test cricket there are still some batsmen willing to occupy the crease. He maybe neither a Gordon Greenidge nor a Sunil Gavaskar but he surely has the credentials to open the innings and frustrate the bowlers as he did so splendidly against Pakistan.

This Test also taught Pakistan few harsh lessons and provided them opportunities to improve on their performance in the next Test.

Their outing in Dubai has been impressive with both bat and ball but would need a lot more shrewd thinking when picking their XI for what now has become a series decider.

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2018