Despite a fight back by Australia in the final session, Pakistan finished the day in a commanding position at 3-255. An opening partnership of 205 laid the foundation as Mohammad Hafeez made 126 and Imam-ul-Haq 76.
Pakistan v Australia - 1st Test - Day 1
It was a tough day for Australia from the moment that Tim Paine, captaining Australia in a Test for the second time, failed to call correctly at the toss and Sarfraz Ahmed inevitably chose to bat.
The wicket was yellow and looked exceptionally dry. When it was unveiled in the morning it looked as though it had been dug out of the sand outside the stadium, poured into the ground and rolled heavily. It also showed every sign that it would start to crumble later in the match as the intense heat dried it further.
The start of the series was highlighted by individuals either starting or restarting their Test careers.
For the first time in two years Australia awarded three baggy-greens at the start of a Test. Having represented Australia 135 times in the short forms of the game, Aaron Finch would have been very proud to have received the honour before he celebrates his 32nd birthday next month.
Travis Head put in impressive performances for Australia A in their local tour to India finishing as leading run scorer with an average of over 50. Marnus Labuschagne also played in those matches and although he only scored 97 runs he handle the spinners well enough to earn his call up.
The last time Australia had as many debutants was in the day/night Test against South Africa at Adelaide following a comprehensive defeat in the second Test by an innings and 80 runs and the loss of the series.
Finch wasn’t the oldest player making his debut. In his 34th year Pakistan called up off-spinner Bilal Asif for the first time.
At the other end of the scale of Test caps two players, one from each side, were making comeback appearances. Peter Siddle, two years older than Finch, made a somewhat unlikely return to the Test team for his 63rd appearance with only Nathan Lyon in the current squad having been selected more times.
With Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins both recovering from injuries Australia had turned to Siddle’s economic action and steady performances to play an anchor role.
Similarly, 37-year-old Hafeez hadn’t played for his country for two years. He wasn’t included in the original squad but was called up after scoring heavily in domestic cricket including a double-century last week.
The first two sessions were gruelling for Australia as the Pakistan openers put together their massive stand the second highest for the first wicket against their opponents. Mitchell Starc was the pick of the attack during that time managing to beat the edge on a few occasions despite little response from the surface.
Nathan Lyon was introduced for the eighth over of the day but he could find little turn on the well-rolled wicket although he managed to produce a couple of inside edges that fell to safety. The Pakistanis decided to boss his spin partner, Jon Holland, taking a positive approach and not allowing the left-armer to settle.
By lunch Hafeez and ul-Haq had put on a chanceless 89 and they continued in the same vein after the interval until Holland eventually produced an error. Hafeez, on 74, drove him high towards long on and while Mitchell Marsh made good ground to his right he seemed to miss-time his leap and the ball just brushed his fingertips before falling short of the boundary.
In the 57th over Hafeez worked a ball from Holland past mid-wicket to bring up his hundred, his first in Tests for three years. Although it was only his 10th Test century he has now scored one against each of the eight Test nations that he’s played against.
Starc was brought back and almost removed him shortly before tea. He managed to induce a genuine edge that would have gone straight to first slip but Paine was now only employing fielders in the wider slip positions and Starc couldn’t hide his anguish as the potential chance went begging.
It was Lyon that finally made the breakthrough. He had bowled tidily all day and in the 63rd over Imam-ul-Haq tried to cut a ball that was a bit too close to his body and could only edge it into Paine’s gloves.
It was a key moment as it allowed Australia to change the impetus of the day taking control of the final session. Siddle started to get some reverse swing and was finally able to remove Hafeez. He brought a delivery back into his pads and despite requesting a review the opener had to go for a wonderful innings of 126 on his return to the side.
The score was 2-222 and Australia prevented any more runs for 4 overs as it tightened the screws and slowed down the game. Siddle was playing the role he’d been brought in for perfectly using the reverse swing to keep the batsmen watchful and not allowing them to play freely.
Starc was being asked to put in a large workload bowling 21 overs in total and towards the end of the day appeared to be feeling the strain.
Azhar Ali had compiled a customary patient innings of 18 from 80 balls when he tried to drive Holland but miss timed the shot and Starc took a fine catch diving forward at mid-off.
Pakistan had been restricted to only 56 runs in the 29 overs of the final session with Haris Sohail finishing on 15 and Mohammad Abbas 1. The fine effort by the Australians in the final session had kept them in the game.