By our correspondent
RAWALPINDI: The opening Test of the three-match series between Pakistan and Australia is going towards a tame draw here at the Pindi Stadium as even two innings have not yet completed with just a day’s game left.
Going into the fifth and final day today (Tuesday), the first innings has yet to be completed with Australia reaching 449 for the loss of 7 wickets at the close of the penultimate day’s play.
Australia were just 27 runs shy of Pakistan’s first innings total with three wickets in hands. Had it not been to Nauman Ali’s (4-107) planned efforts to buy wickets through pitching the ball on the rough patches, Australia would have been in a much better position.
“Since there was nothing in the wicket, we planned to buy these by pitching the ball in rough outside the leg stumps. That is exactly what we did and got successful,” the left-arm spinner said.
The wicket had nothing to offer to Nauman who was eyeing a five-wicket haul on the final day. “I would try to pick one more to make the Test a memorable one against a quality Australian team,” Nauman said.
Even his four wickets were the best by a bowler in the ongoing Test so far. Australian batsmen must be ruing throwing away a good opportunity to score a century on a dead track. Following in the footsteps of Usman Khawaja (97), Marnus Labuschagne (90) and Steve Smith (78) could have gone on to hit centuries. They missed the three figures more due to casual shots rather than any turn or pace of the wicket.
“It was really annoying to have missed the opportunity to score a century after staying long and working hard to adjust. I was perfectly placed to go on to score big. It is disappointing that I lost my wicket after settling down,” Steve Smith said in a post-match conference.
Smith and Labuschagne put on 108 runs for the third wicket and raised a century stand off 184 balls. Labuschagne who was 69 overnight chased outgoing delivery only to see Abdullah Shafiq taking a good catch at slip diving to his right.
Travis Head announced his arrival with two fluent drives of Shaheen that saw him fetching boundaries. That was all he could contribute to the Australian score. An attempted push of Nauman Ali’s delivery cost southpaw his wicket. Cameron Green (48) survived a confident Naseem Shah’s LBW appeal. Soon after Smith reached his 34th Test fifty which came off 112 balls.
Green was seen in a flamboyant mood, striking the ball expertly and forcefully. Australia soon raised 400 in the 117th over with Green showing the signs of a quality batsman till the time he was trapped down the leg. Green could not avoid sweeping Nauman’s repeated leg-stump offers only to scoop a ball to Iftikhar at short fine-leg. His 109-ball knock was studded with four boundaries.
Babar Azam missed newcomer Carry on a mistimed reverse sweep which went down for a lucky boundary. Nauman was the unlucky bowler who could have had his fourth wicket. But the left-arm spinner soon accounted for Steve Smith on a mistimed sweep when the ball kept a bit low. Smith’s 196-ball innings contained four boundaries.
For a change, Naseem Shah cleaned up Alex Carry (19) on a delivery that left the batsmen at the last moment. Both Naseem and Shaheen Shah bowled with pace and hostility but there was nothing in the wicket to support their aggressive attitude.
Even Imamul Haq and Babar Azam turned their arm on a rain-shortened day. In all 94 overs were to be bowled on the fourth day but wet conditions reduced the overs to 67 from which 64 could have been bowled.
Pakistan won the toss
Pakistan 1st Innings 476/4d
Australia 1st Innings
Usman c Imam b Nauman 97
Warner b Sajid Khan 68
Labuschagne c Abdullah b Shaheen 90
Smith c† Rizwan b Nauman Ali 78
Travis c †Rizwan b Nauman Ali 8
Cameron c Iftikhar b Nauman Ali 48
Alex Carey † b Naseem Shah 19
Mitchell Starc not out 12
Pat Cummins (c) not out 4
Extras: (b 6, lb 11, nb 8) 25
TOTAL: (137 Ov, RR: 3.27) 449/7
Yet to bat: Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood
Fall: 1-156, 40.4 ov, 2-203, 53.3 ov, 3-311, 84.6 ov, 4-326, 87.4 ov, 5-407, 120.4 ov, 6-422, 124.5 ov, 7-444, 135.5 ov
Bowling: Sajid Khan 45-9-122-1, Naseem Shah 21-2-89-1, Shaheen Shah Afridi 28-5-80-1, Nauman Ali 37-8-107-4, Iftikhar Ahmed 3-0-20-0, Imam-ul-Haq 2-0-9-0, Babar Azam 1-0-5-0
Umpires: Ahsan Raza & Aleem Dar