Shaheen’s early fireworks, Naseem’s late burst help Pakistan keep Australia in check

Published March 22, 2022
Pakistan captain Babar Azam takes a catch to complete Australian opener Usman Khawaja’s dismissal during the third Test at the Gaddafi Stadium on Monday.—AP
Pakistan captain Babar Azam takes a catch to complete Australian opener Usman Khawaja’s dismissal during the third Test at the Gaddafi Stadium on Monday.—AP

LAHORE: The first Test at the Gaddafi Stadium in 13 years, the series decider of Australia’s historic tour of Pakistan, got off to an explosive start on Monday.

In the third over, Pakistan’s pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi struck twice in three deliveries. Australia were stuttering at 8-2 with Shaheen sending back opener David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne.

But Pakistan-born opener Usman Khawaja and Steve Smith stuck in for Australia, raising a 138-run partnership to haul them back in the contest.

It was in the third session when Pakistan hit back, fast bowler Naseem Shah breaking the stand with the wicket of Smith (59) before off-spinner Sajid Khan ensured Khawaja fell nine runs short of his century.

Naseem returned to bag another wicket — that of Travis Head — and Australia, who won the toss and opted to bat, ended the first day on 232-5 as bad light stopped play two overs before the scheduled close.

“I will come back tomorrow and bowl better,” Naseem (2-36), clearly buoyed after dismissing Smith, told an online news conference. “Our first target is to dismiss Australia under 300.”

The opening two Tests of Australia’s first series in Pakistan since 1998 ended in draws but Naseem was hopeful that Lahore would produce a result despite the pitch once again being slow and offering low bounce.

“If you bowl with pace you can get reverse swing on such slow wickets and that’s what exactly I did,” added Naseem. “It’s quite hot and the bowlers do get frustrated in such conditions, but you have to keep yourself calm because you have to bowl for longer periods.”

It was that patience that saw the 19-year-old Naseem eventually produce the breakthrough Pakistan wanted when he got Smith lbw.

“Smith is a great player, no doubt,” said Naseem , who replaced all-rounder Faheem Ashraf in the playing XI. “His wicket has given me confidence, and I was trying to restrict his scoring and in that process got him out.”

Khawaja, though, was still there after Smith walked off and added another 41 runs with Head (26) before he fell for 91 after hitting nine boundaries and a six.

Trying to flick Sajid to mid-wicket, the 35-year-old only got a thick outside edge to slip where Pakistan skipper Babar Azam dived to his right to pouch a brilliant one-handed shin-high catch.

Having batted for just under five-and-half hours, Khawaja later revealed he wasn’t feeling well and physically struggled on a hot day.

“This wicket is probably one of the toughest to score runs on,” he said during a news conference. “It was tough scoring runs because I think there are cracks on the pitch. The one I got out, it’s like sometimes you miss it and sometimes you edge it.

“I was really struggling from the start and got some medication off doctor in between the breaks, I wasn’t feeling well at all. I was just telling myself, ‘Keep going. Go as long as you can. Keep pushing through.’ I could easily have gone harder, played a big shot, got out for 20 or 30. I felt horrible today, so it was actually a win getting 90.”

Head followed Khawaja six overs later when Naseem induced his outside edge which was snapped up by wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan but there were no more wickets for Pakistan as Cameron Green (20 not out) and Alex Carey (eight not out) held out till the close.

Australia would be reasonably happy with how the day panned out especially after the start Shaheen (2-39) gave Pakistan as Lahore welcomed the return of Test cricket for the first time since the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009.

Warner was struck on the pads by a delivery which seamed back into him and was trapped lbw for seven before Labuschagne fell for a duck when he got a faint edge that was taken by Rizwan.

Pakistan, though, would rue a number of missed opportunities that could have seen them take an upper-hand.

Two of those chances came off consecutive deliveries. Khawaja was on 12 when his edge off left-arm spinner Nauman Ali flew to Babar at slip but the Pakistan captain couldn’t get down in time. On the very next delivery, Smith — then on 19 — offered a straightforward return catch to Nauman but he failed to hold on.

Smith would go on to add 30 more runs but fell short of completing 8,000 Test runs while Khawaja, who made 160 in the second Test in Karachi, missed out on a 12th Test ton.

There was another missed chance later on when Sajid spilled a return catch off Head when he was on seven. But unlike Khawaja or Smith, Head didn’t last long.

Scoreboard

AUSTRALIA (1st innings):

D. Warner lbw b Shaheen 7

Usman Khawaja c Azam b Sajid 91

M. Labuschagne c Rizwan b Shaheen 0

S. Smith lbw b Naseem 59

T. Head c Rizwan b Naseem 26

C. Green not out 20

A. Carey not out 8

EXTRAS (B-13, NB-8) 21

TOTAL (for five wickets, 88 overs) 232

FALL OF WICKETS: 1-8 (Warner), 2-8 (Labuschagne), 3-146 (Smith), 4-187 (Khawaja), 5-206 (Head).

YET TO BAT: P. Cummins, M. Starc, M. Swepson, N. Lyon.

BOWLING: Shaheen 15-3-39-2, Hasan 14-5-28-0 (3nb), Naseem 19-9-36-2 (2nb), Nauman 15-2-51-0 (2nb), Sajid 25-4-65-1.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2022

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