Australia face an uphill battle on the last day of the Dubai Test to try and salvage something from the game. They were set 462 runs to win after Pakistan declared at 6-181 and, at stumps were 3-136 with Usman Khawaja on 50 and Travis Head 34.
Pakistan were 3-45 overnight and it took Australia a further twenty overs before they found the first breakthrough on day four.
Imam-ul-Haq and Sohail played with some ease on a wicket that was taking slow but not prodigious turn. Apart from three overs from Mitchell Starc, Tim Paine used a spin attack through the morning.
It was Jon Holland who broke the 65 run fourth wicket partnership when Imam chipped back a simple, low return catch to be dismissed for 48, (4-110).
In the next over Marnus Labuschagne was successful again with his part-time leg-spin. He produced some significant turn from outside left-hander Sohail’s off stump with the ball coming back and hitting him above the pads. He was well back in his crease and when Australia reviewed the ball was shown to be hitting middle and leg with Sohail sent back for 39, (5-110).
At lunch Pakistan was 5-152 having extended their lead to 435 runs and Sarfraz Ahmed brought the innings to an end twenty-five minutes after the break.
On 41, Asad Shafiq tried to hit Nathan Lyon over the ropes at mid-wicket but MItchell Marsh was posted there and he took a simple catch at which point Sarfraz waved the batsmen in. Pakistan was 6-181 setting Australia 462 to win.
Usman Khawaja and Aaron Finch had put together an opening stand of 142 in the first innings and they went about the second in the same vein. Although the ball was turning more it was slow and fairly easy to read and the new ball wasn’t swinging for the pacemen. By tea they had taken Australia to 72 without loss and had reduced the target to 390 runs.
The unlucky score of 87 certainly proved to be the case this time with three wickets falling before the scoreboard ticked over again.
Aaron Finch had made 62 in the first innings and was one short of his second half-century when Mohammad Abbas used reverse swing to great effect. He surprised Finch with an inswinger and was given out lbw using a review to check the decision (1-87).
It was a difficult time to come in and Shaun Marsh only lasted two balls. Abbas bowled a lovely away swinger to the left-hander and his defensive prod could only find the edge for an easy take for Sarfraz (2-87).
His younger brother, Mitchell, almost fell first ball when he drove uppishly to mid-wicket to the first delivery of Abbas’ next over. Three balls later and the inswinger trapped him in front. Initially he was given not out as there were two noises but Pakistan’s review showed that the ball had hit the pad first and was going to go on and hit the stumps (3-87). The Marsh brothers had only faced six deliveries between them and both had fallen for ducks.
In a devastating spell Abbas had taken three wickets in seven deliveries without conceding a run.
Khawaja, at the other end, must have been reliving the nightmare of the previous day when Finch's dismissal was the start of all ten wickets falling for just 60 runs.
Travis Head failed to score in that innings but he finally got away in Test cricket with a single to his thirteenth delivery of the second. This was enough for him to start playing with confidence and show the form that had made him leading scorer on Australia A’s recent tour to India.
Khawaja had also had a successful tour finishing with the highest average in the two unofficial Tests. The pair saw Australia through to stumps adding 49 runs for the fourth wicket and their continued partnership on the final day will be crucial if Australia is going to avoid going one down in the two Test series.