Alex Carey misses maiden hundred as Australia set a huge first innings total


By our correspondent

KARACHI: Alex Carey missed his maiden Test century while Usman Khawaja fell for 160 as Australia posted a mammoth total of 505-8 in their first innings on the second day of their second Test against Pakistan here at the National Stadium on Sunday..

Carey appeared set to become his team’s second century-maker of an innings but fell to the part-time spin of Babar Azam who claimed just his second wicket in 39 Tests.

It was a cruel end for Carey, bowled by a delivery that kept low in playing his favoured sweep shot, who was in the news for the wrong reasons earlier this week when his accidental tumble in the team’s hotel pool was caught on camera.

But the 30-year-old made barely a misstep in scoring 93 from 159 balls today, second-top score of the hefty innings behind Usman Khawaja’s 160, finally dismissed in today’s middle session having batted almost 10 hours in baking Karachi heat.

Despite casting aspersions upon Pakistan’s batting intent across the first two days of the first Test, Australia have taken a near identical approach to the second with no guarantee they won’t continue their innings into tomorrow.

The lack of urgency in Australia’s batting this evening is highlighted by Mitchell Starc’s watchful contribution of 28no from 95 balls, a glaring contrast to his Test career batting strike rate of almost 67 per 100 balls faced.

He and Carey batted throughout the final session as the foot-weary Pakistan bowlers summoned a third new-ball, an event the late Shane Warne liked to equate with “dancing and holding hands” as life’s more over-rated occurrences.

Alex Carey used the sweep shot to great effect // AFP via Getty

Carey’s second Test fifty arrived, fittingly, via reverse sweep which was a stroke he had deployed effectively throughout his two-hour vigil.

The 30-year-old’s highest Test score, in his seventh outing, arrived shortly after courtesy of the stroke’s more conventional cousin and he grew in confidence and surety as he closed in on a deserved hundred with debate raging as to when Australia might declare.

Or why on earth they might not.

With temperatures nudging 36C at the height of the afternoon Karachi, Australia’s preparedness to keep their rivals in the field as they ground out runs at less than three an over was as much to keep their own bowlers and fielders fresh while ensuring Pakistan’s were well and truly cooked.

Or perhaps skipper Pat Cummins and his off-field brainstrust were conscious of the fact no team has lost a Test match on the subcontinent having batted first and posted a total of 500 or more.

That was reduced to a solitary over of spin before stumps were drawn due to failing light, an issue that was never going to repeat under Karachi’s cloudless skies.

Khawaja had flagged Australia were looking to “drive the game” in today’s second session with a view to doubling their overnight total of 3-251, but found runs so difficult to come by due to disciplined bowling and an absence of overt intent their game plan almost duplicated that rolled out by Pakistan in the drawn first Test.

Apart from Khawaja’s heroic knock in the city of his family’s heritage and Carey’s timely contribution as questions increased about his Test batting returns, there were other elements to celebrate in Australia’s grinding two-day batting-fest.

It represented the first time they have posted first innings totals beyond 450 in consecutive Tests on the subcontinent since their previous visit to Pakistan 24 years ago, when they piled on 513 at Rawalpindi and then 4-599 at Peshawar where skipper Mark Taylor scored his epic 334no.

And Khawaja’s 160 featured the most balls faced in a single innings by an Australia batter on the subcontinent since Jason Gillespie endured for 425 deliveries in his still-scarcely believable double-hundred against Bangladesh at Chittagong in 2006.

But the extent to which bat has dominated ball across the first seven days of this Benaud-Qadir Trophy campaign is underscored by the current average per wicket of almost 77 runs.

By comparison, the highest average score per wicket in a series (minimum three Tests) played in subcontinental Asia is the 91 recorded in the three-match ‘contest’ of 2007 where hosts Sri Lanka belted Bangladesh by an innings in all three games.

And that can be attributed directly to the character of the playing surfaces prepared at Rawalpindi and now Karachi.

The current pitch reaffirmed its listless nature at the very outset of day two when the morning’s third delivery – sent down by opening bowler Hasan Ali armed with a ball barely 10 overs old – bounced twice before reaching ‘keeper Mohammad Rizwan.

But despite the obvious absence of pace or menace in the soul-destroying surface, Shaheen insisted on peppering nightwatchman Nathan Lyon with bouncers and – in doing so – helping the elevated tailender within sight of his highest Test score.

Having been missed at short-leg by Imam-ul-Haq in the penultimate over yesterday before he had scored, Lyon became the dominant partner in his 54-run stand (off 100 balls faced) with Khawaja in the first hour today.

He survived a tight lbw call on 3 when ball tracking showed he was beneficiary of the umpire’s call, and was dropped again on 31 when he chipped a sharp return catch to Faheem Ashraf’s left on the bowler’s follow-through by which time he must have felt a maiden Test fifty was his destiny.

However, on 38 – nine runs shy of his Test-career high – he was comprehensively bowled by Faheem who fired a ball full and fast into Lyon’s pads from where it rebounded on to middle stump.

Despite being the set batter when joined by Travis Head, Khawaja struggled to find scoring fluency against tight bowling and strangling fields and when lunch was taken he’d added just 28 to his overnight total in the two-hour morning session.

The battle became even tougher after the break when the impact of Shaheen’s earlier spell where he repeatedly bashed the ball into the pitch became obvious, with the wear and tear resulting in pronounced reverse swing for the left-armer.

The first came when Head – who had taken over Lyon’s role as the more productive partner contributing 23 (from 48 balls) in his 43-run union with Khawaja – attempted to play a ball to the leg side around his front pad and was adjudged lbw by umpire Aleem Dar.

The speed with which Head signalled for the decision to be reviewed suggested he felt the ball, delivered from around the wicket, was sliding down leg but scrutiny showed it to be narrowly clipping leg stump and umpire’s call duly fell in Pakistan’s favour.

There was no such conjecture 10 overs later when Sajid ripped consecutive deliveries past Khawaja’s previously unpassable bat with the second of those taking the top of the left-hander’s off-stump, sending the bowler into an animated version of his trademark wicket celebration which is part military salute, part Bavarian Schuhplattler.

A patient partnership between allrounder Cameron Green – whose unfamiliarity with subcontinent conditions was reflected in his taking 40 deliveries to reach 10 – seemed likely to see the visitors safely to tea until the Western Australian was also undone by spin.

But having revisited the negative outside-leg line of attack that Pakistan so painfully adopted the previous day, and which saw one of the three balls he pushed behind Green’s pads being ruled wide, Nauman bamboozled the right-hander with fizzing turn.

The wicket ball was delivered from closer to the stumps and pitched closer to leg stump drawing Green forward in a speculative defensive push, but it spun across the bat face and into off stump in a sign that will doubtless excite Australia’s debutant leg spinner Mitchell Swepson.