We Have to Stick to Our Plans & Build Pressure…

Azhar Ali believes Pakistan bowlers will have to be patient even if Australia find big partnerships, as they search for the seven wickets on the final day to clinch the first Test in Dubai. While lauding fast bowler Mohammad Abbas for picking up the three wickets to fall on day four, Ali warned his teammates that they still had “hard work” ahead of them to ensure victory.

“We know always that on this kind of track getting 20 wickets is hard work,” Ali said. “But if you stick to your plans then the opportunity comes. Again, you’ve seen that after the opening partnership between Finch and Khawaja we kept on our plans and the results really came our way.

"Mohammad Abbas executed his reverse-swing skills really well, bowled wicket to wicket and once the guys in get out, it’s a hard pitch to start on, so we know that if we can hang in there, keep building pressure, it’s going to be hard work for the batsmen too.”

Australia slipped from 142 for no loss to 202 all out in the first innings, but Azhar cautioned against thinking too far ahead.

“Sometimes it looks that way,” he said. “But I think when the batsmen get in there’s equal opportunity for them and it’s hard work for the bowlers. It’s a slow track, but there’s still spin there, and if you can reverse the ball then there are still opportunities. So, there’s a lot of hard work to be done but I think we’re standing in a very good position right now.”

Australia know they face an uphill task on the final day, but after a fighting 49-run stand between Usman Khawaja and Travis Head, they are hopeful of staving off defeat.

“Nice to build a partnership and get to stumps with Usman,” Head said after stumps. “A nice finish to the day and an exciting day ahead tomorrow.

“It’s very nice to get off a pair. I was disappointed not to do it yesterday. It’s always difficult to start and I wasn’t able to do that in the first innings, so my job today was to get out there and build a partnership and get myself in and once you get a feel for the wicket it becomes not as hard.

“You get a rhythm and a feel for the bowlers. It was nice to get to stumps, get the momentum back a little bit. We’ve seen that if you can build partnerships that the game can drag out and start to slow up.”

Head said Australia will take a cue from Khawaja, who followed up his first-innings 85 with an unbeaten 50 in the second innings.

“Last night we were talking to Usman who batted extremely well, talking about his plans, talking about individual plans,” he said. “We’re making sure we’re going out and backing ourselves. We’ve been batting extremely well, guys have had really good A tours, we had a really good tour match last week.

“It’s not about reinventing the wheel, we’ve got to start really sharp, know where we’re going to score, know where we’re going to defend and how we’re going to play each ball and make sure we’re calm and relaxed.”