It was yet another attritional, old-fashioned day of cricket at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium and by the end of it Haris Sohail’s maiden Test ton ensured Pakistan held the aces when stumps were drawn on Day 2 of the first Test between Australia and Pakistan on Monday.
Sohail grafted a patient 110 in 240 deliveries and found an able ally in Asad Shafiq (80) before Pakistan were bowled for 482 in 164.2 overs. The Australian openers, debutant Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja then saw off 13 overs remaining in the day rather comfortably with the surface still playing well. Finch was unbeaten on 13 while Khawaja finished the day 17 not out, with the visitors on 30 for 0 still trailing Pakistan by 452 runs.
Resuming on 255 for 3, Pakistan lost nightwatchman Mohammad Abbas in the fifth over of the day to Peter Siddle who got the ball the shape away enough to sneak past the batsman’s defences for 1. Sohail and Shafiq then dug in and made sure no more wickets were lost in the first hour which saw just 19 runs scored in 14 overs.
The second hour, however, saw runs scored at a much faster pace. Australia delayed taking the new ball which eventually worked in Pakistan’s favour with both Shafiq and Sohail getting a measure of the surface. Shafiq smashed off-spinner Nathan Lyon for a four and a six while Sohail thumped Jon Holland over long-on to go to lunch unbroken at 329 for 4.
Mitchell Starc and Lyon resumed for Australia after lunch and the experienced duo gave both set batsmen very little to work with. But, the duo batted patiently soon reaching their individual half-centuries. Shafiq got to his 50 – 21st in Test cricket – first with a trademark square cut for a four while Sohail reached it in the very next over with an exquisite cover-drive off Lyon.
There were the odd LBW shouts and the occasional play and miss, but both Sohail and Shafiq looked largely settled on a track which had very little to offer to the bowlers. Just when it seemed Australia would have to tea wicketless, debutant Debutant Marnus Labuschagne struck with his seemingly innocuous leg-spinners.
He started the over – the 144th of the innings – with a rank full toss that was swatted away to the deep midwicket fence by Shafiq, but followed it up with a spitting leg-spinner that would have made Shane Warne proud. He lured the batsman forward and got the ball to grip and turn just enough to take the outside edge of Shafiq for 80 with Tim Paine behind the stumps holding on to an excellent catch. The wicket ended the stubborn 150-run stand between Shafiq and Sohail also ensuring Australia went into slightly relieved.
The first over after the interval brought the visitors even more joy with Babar Azam run out for 4. Sohail punched Holland to short midwicket and set off for a run. Azam was slow off the blocks and unfortunately for him, Labuschagne fired a clean throw right over the stumps finding the batsman a few inches short.
At 418 for 6, Pakistan still had a good total on the board but needed a few more to feel absolutely safe. Sohail moved through the 90s quickly thwacking Holland for a huge six down the ground before a late-cut of the same bowler brought him a century for the very first time in Test cricket.
Sohail, however, couldn’t carry on for much longer falling trying to play the late cut to Lyon only to feather it straight into the gloves of Paine for 110, his innings studded with eight glittering fours and two sixes. Sarfraz, then who was dropped by Aaron Finch on 8 couldn’t make much of the chance as he ran himself out for 15 with Finch making amends for his earlier lapse by firing a direct throw from point to find the Pakistani captain millimetres short of his ground.
Siddle then sneaked one through the half-forward defence of Bilal Asif (12) as Pakistan lost their last few wickets in a heap. Wahab Riaz flicked Siddle for a four while Yasir Shah collected three in the same over. Starc then finished off the innings catching the outside edge of Shah’s bat for 3 as Pakistan lost their last six wickets for 72 runs.
For Australia, Siddle was by far the most threatening bowler with the pacer returning 3 for 58 in 29 overs. Nathan Lyon also chipped in with two wickets for 114 runs in 54 overs.
Finch and Khawaja started off pretty well, rotating the strike at every given chance. The surface has still not started acting up but with Yasir Shah and Mohammad Hafeez to tackle, the Australians will want to see these two to stay on for as long as possible.