Pakistan v Australia: 1st Test - Day Three

Australia’s woes in Asia continued on the third day of the Dubai Test as they lost all of their first innings wickets while adding only 60 runs after an opening partnership of 142.  They were bowled out for 202 and trailed by 325 runs at stumps with Pakistan 3-45 in their second innings.

The day belonged to debutant off-spinner Bilal Asif.  The 33 year old was playing in just his 24th first class match but he finished with figures of 6-36 taking all six wickets while conceding just 15 runs including a spell of 4 wickets in 22 deliveries.

He was backed up by an equally impressive Mohammad Assad.  He found an excellent nagging line and length and prodigious reverse swing as the innings unfolded.  He was the perfect foil for Bilal returning the figures of 4-29 including 4-12 once the wickets began to fall.

The opening session had gone entirely the way of the Australians.  Starting the day at 30 without loss the openers seemed to have few problems during the morning as they moved the score on to 137.

It was only leg-spinner Yasir Shah that seemed to cause any concern with Usman Khawaja, in particular, being troubled at times.  In the fourth over of the day he came down the wicket to Yasir Shah but misjudged the flight and could have been stumped down the leg side but Sarfraz Ahmed failed to get a glove on the ball.

Aaron Finch brought up a half-century in his first Test innings that included a six over mid-on.  Khawaja matched him as he passed fifty for the first time in Asia.

It was a more humid day than the first two and it wasn’t long before drinks were run out to the Australian openers.  The ICC have asked the umpires to only allow refreshments at the planned drinks breaks and on their return to the boundary the fourth umpire was seen talking to the drinks runners with team manager Gavin Dovey becoming involved in the discussion.

Having been so composed throughout his innings it was a surprise when, in the fifth over after lunch, Finch, having made 62, drove an Abbas delivery in the air to silly mid-on where Asad Shafiq took a smart catch.  It ended the 142 run opening stand and started the disintegration of the innings.

Bilal had bowled from the Emirates Road end without success before lunch but that all changed after the break as he found his line and length.  His high action began to find some bounce and turn and he drew Shaun Marsh, 7, into a drive with Shafiq taking another good catch this time above his head at slip.  It was Bilal’s maiden Test wicket and it started his devastating spell.

Khawaja had played a few adventurous shots including two reverse sweeps for boundaries against Yasir Shah.  In Bilal’s next over he was in position early to play a paddle shot but had misjudged the length and ended up top-edging a simple chance to Imam-ul-Haq to be dismissed for 85 his highest score in Asia.

Mitchell Marsh had scored a big hundred in the warm up game but should have fallen for 3 when he drove the next delivery straight back at Yasir who made a meal of a straight forward chance as the ball went through his hands and hit him on the chest.

Travis Head then had to face Bilal and managed to negotiate the over without looking at all comfortable.  It wasn’t a big surprise when he fell in Bilal’s next when he drove hard at a wide ball without getting his foot fully to the pitch allowing Haris Sohail to take an excellent diving catch at wide slip.

Head’s maiden Test innings had only lasted nine deliveries but Marnus Labuschagne’s was even shorter.  He failed to read the line of the second ball that he faced and got an inside edge onto his pad that was taken by Imam.  Both of Australia’s middle-order debutants had fallen without scoring and Australia had slumped to 5-171.

Mitchell Marsh and Tim Paine survived until tea but both fell within three overs after the break.

In the second Marsh played across the line to Abbas and was out lbw for 12 not even waiting for the umpire's decision.  Paine followed for 7 in the next over offering a simple bat-pad chance and Bilal had a five wicket haul from his maiden bowl for Pakistan.

Abbas was also putting in lovely spell of bowling and he was further rewarded when he had Mitchell Starc caught behind for the third duck of the innings and then bowled Peter Siddle for 10.  Bilal, capped off a wonderful performance by removing Lyon for 6 to give Pakistan a 280 run first innings lead.

Sarfraz decided to give his bowlers a rest rather than enforcing the follow on.  Jon Holland managed to remove Mohammad Hafeez for 17 with Labuschagne taking a good catch at silly point to ease the memory of his short spell at the crease.  The only blot on Bilal’s day came in the next over.  He had been sent in as nightwatchman but fell for a five ball duck to Nathan Lyon who barely celebrated.

The spirits would have been lifted, however, when Jon Holland removed Azhar Ali for 4 with the last ball of the day.  It’s likely that Pakistan already has a big enough lead to go one up in the two Test series.  After stumps were called coach Justin Langer was seen out in the middle talking to a few of the batsmen.  It looks as though they need all of the guidance that they can get.