Khawaja misses century as batsmen dominate again

By our correspondent

RAWALPINDI: Islamabad-born Usman Khawaja (97) missed what could have been his third century in as many Tests as Australia closed the third day at 271-2 in their first innings in response to Pakistan’s 476-4 declared in the first Test of the three Test-match series here at the Pindi Stadium on Sunday.

The 35-year-old Khawaja’s fine knock was the brightest aspect of another dull day on the track which least supported the bowlers. And the game seems to end in a draw as only six sessions to go.

Khawaja, who brought in his fifty off 67 balls, fell prey to left-arm spinner Nauman Ali. It was a delivery that kissed the left-hander’s glove before bouncing off his forearm with the short-leg fielder Imam-ul-Haq taking an easy catch. Khawaja, initially, looked lucky as Aleem Dar did not give him out but the video review confirmed that the southpaw was out and he went to the pavilion amid thunderous applause from the crowd.

When Khawaja went Australia were 203-2 after lunch.

Khawaja remained lucky twice, On 22, the newly installed opener flayed a languid drive at a wide, full delivery from Pakistan strike bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi that squirted waist-high to gully as Khawaja’s left-hand came from his bat handle, but Fawad Alam shelled the straightforward chance.

And having reached 62, Khawaja was given warning of the perils associated with playing the reverse sweep when a ball from Nauman clipped his batting glove but thudded at pace into the pads of keeper Mohammad Rizwan who could hardly have been expected to snare the half-chance.

By that stage, Khawaja and Warner had surpassed 100 for the first wicket with their union ultimately yielding 156 which represents the first time Australia have posted a 150-plus opening partnership since Warner and Joe Burns put on 222 at the Gabba in the first Test of the previous series against Pakistan in 2019.

Khawaja struck 15 fours in his 159-ball knock. He stayed for 222 minutes. However it was Warner who went first, bowled by off-spinner Sajid Khan with a delivery that kept a bit low with Warner exposing his stumps while going for a cut and missed it.

Warner, whose fifty came off 86 balls, fell soon after lunch.

Warner, who made a slow start before managing super strokes, struck 12 fours in his 114-ball knock. He added 156 runs for the first wicket with Khawaja after Australia started the day with five without loss.

Marnus Labuschagne (69*) and Steven Smith (24*) then added 68 runs for the third wicket unvanquished association before bad light forced early stumps when there was still over an hour left in the scheduled play.

Labuschagne, who brought in his 13th fifty off 91 balls, smacked nine fours in his 117-ball unbeaten knock. Smith, former Australia Test captain, had struck three fours in his 55-ball knock.

Sajid picked 1-94 in 27 overs while Nauman claimed 1-49 in 15 overs. Naseem Shah (0-54 in 13) and Shaheen Afridi (0-48 in 15) remained wicketless despite creating a few good deliveries that troubled the batsmen.