Pakistan stage late fightback after Usman Khawaja’s another fine knock

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By our correspondent

LAHORE: Pakistan thwarted a solid stand with late wickets to stage a fightback as the game was evenly poised at the end of the first day of the third Test against Australia here at the Gaddafi Stadium on Monday.

Australia’s entire innings depended on the super third wicket stand between Usman Khawaja and Steve Smith. Their association was followed after the two early blows inflicted by Shaheen Shah Afridi in the third over of the day after Australia opted to bat first after winning the toss. Usman and Smith revived Australian innings with a 138 runs stand and fall of three Australian wickets in the final session left the match evenly-balanced. The fall of five wickets during the day brought Pakistan back in the game at the time when Australia was in control but they wobbled lately to end the day with 232 for 5 on board.

Cameron Green (20 not out) and Alex Carey unbeaten on 8 at stumps. Usman top-scored with 91 and Smith made 59 as Pakistan claimed the honours after a dominant final session.

Australia have not won a Test match at Gaddafi Stadium since 1959. It is the first Test match at the venue since 2009. But the pitch was not different from the previous two Test matches of the series played at Rawalpindi and Karachi providing little support to the bowlers.

When Usman was at 69, Smith faced young Naseem Shah, who trapped him leg before for 59 in 169 ball aided with six fours. Travis Head joined Usman but he too became the victim of 19-year-old Naseem, when he was caught behind on 26. Naseem, who was recalled in the playing eleven after missing the Karachi Test, finished with 2 for 40 off 19 overs and on an earlier occasion, left-armer Shaheen Afridi with two quick wickets dented Australian batting.

Both Smith and Usman were given reprieves by Pakistan during their solid stand.

The two opportunities spinner Nauman Ali produced to break Usman and Smith partnership were squandered by Babar Azam and the bowler himself. In the first incident, Usman edged through Babar’s legs at first slip and later Smith stepped ahead and hit hard back at Nuaman, who dropped the sharp chance off his own bowling.

Usman fell nine runs short of his century but he has however managed 392 runs at 130.67 in the series. He was brilliantly caught one-handed by a diving Babar at slip off spinner Sajid Khan.

Earlier , Shaheen scalped opener David Warner for just 7. Marnus Labuschagne, the world’s No. 1 Test batter, joined Usman but was made to return to the pavilion in no time. Labuschagne pushed at a wide delivery from Shaheen, with the outside edge carrying to wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan behind the stumps.