23/04/2024

Usman Khawaja sweeps on his way to 97: cricket.com.au

Usman Khawaja fell agonisingly close to what would have been the most special Test century as he and the Australian batters fought back on Day 3 in Rawalpindi

Australia’s top order has matched Pakistan’s batting masterclass, grinding the Pakistan bowling attack into the ground and giving the visitors a fighting chance in the First Test.

Australia took full advantage of a lifeless pitch as Usman Khawaja (97), Marnus Labuschagne (69*), and David Warner (68) all cashed in before bad light once again ended play with Australia 2-271, still trailing the hosts by 205 runs.

Here are the moments that mattered from Day 3 in Rawalpindi:

Khawaja dropped as Pakistan find their lengths early.

After 162 overs and almost two whole days in the field, all eyes were on an Australian batting lineup with a well-documented history of struggling in the subcontinent.

The second over of the day would have sent shivers through the Australian dressing room as with just his third ball of the day, Shaheen Shah Afridi narrowly beat the outside edge of David Warner’s bat. The next ball had the left-hander sparring a ball just past the gully fielder before the Pakistani quick once again beat the outside edge with the final ball of the over.

It was no easier for Khawaja who also faced his struggles with Shaheen, edging a ball short of the slips before surviving a tight LBW shout from teenager Naseem Shah.

Then, just as the opening pair began to look settled Shaheen gave Pakistan their chance. Khawaja, on 22 and beginning to look settled, edged a lose drive to gully as Fawad Alam inexplicably put down the catch. Khawaja responded with three boundaries off the next eight balls from Shaheen as Australia moved past 50 without loss.

Warner hit as Naseem ignites the contest.

With runs beginning to flow and the Australian openers looking increasingly comfortable, Pakistan was desperate for one of their two seamers to dig deep and put pressure back onto the visitors.

They got exactly that from youngster Naseem Shah. After being hit for two consecutive boundaries in the previous over by Warner, The 19-year-old took it up to the champion opener. Naseem struck Warner with consecutive short deliveries and on both occasions jogged down the pitch to have a word with the left-hander.

Warner seemed unfazed, laughing off Naseem’s advances and even patting the youngster on the back after the second bouncer. The bouncer barrage continued in Naseem’s next over but he was played away confidently by Warner before being taken over third man for four by Khawaja.

Khawaja and Warner pass 50 as runs flow into lunch.

With Harris Rauf ruled out due to COIVD and Hasan Ali injured there were doubts whether the Pakistan bowling lineup was deep enough to trouble a strong Australian batting lineup.

These doubts were brought into fruition as the Australian openers continued to attack the Pakistani bowling lineup, and as the seamers tired they were met with less and less resistance.

Khawaja raced past his fifteenth Test 50, dominating the spin bowling with some of his trademark sweeps both reverse and conventional, Khawaja was given a warm ovation from his birth country and continued to pile the pressure on the Pakistan attack.

Warner was also impressive, producing some beautiful off drives as after being bogged down early he began to free the arms, producing some beautiful cuts and drives in a flurry of boundaries on his way to a 33rd half-century at Test level. The Australians went into lunch unbroken, scoring at over four runs an over.

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Warner bowled as Sajid breaks through

Pakistan was desperate for a breakthrough and they finally got their wish when spinner Sajid Khan bowled Warner for 68. Warner had rocked back for a late cut but misjudged the length and the ball castled into his middle stump.

The dismissal came as a shock as two openers had looked reasonably calm after lunch with the only other chance being a nick through the slips from Khawaja.

The Australian camp however would be extremely happy with the partnership of 157 between their opening pair, 100 more than the highest opening partnership throughout the entire Ashes series, and putting to bed speculation about who should open the batting with Warner in the short term.

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Khawaja falls agonizingly short of century as Marnus digs in

Usman Khawaja fell just three runs short of what would have been an incredibly special century after gloved a reverse sweep to short leg off the bowling of Nauman Ali. Khawaja was originally given not out before a clear spike on UltraEdge overturned the decision on review.

Khawaja, who has spoken at length about his desire to play in his country of birth, dominated in his first innings in Pakistan. driving and pulling the seam bowlers while sweeping the spinners to all parts.

Nauman had found life in an otherwise dead wicket. After a tough opening spell in the first session against two left-handers, Ali started spinning the ball past the edge of new batter Marnus Labuschagne before dismissing Khawaja.

Khawaja and Labuschagne looked set to bat Australia deep into day three before the dismissal put some pressure back on the Australians.

Labuschagne brings up 50 under gloomy skies.

Marnus Labuschagne continued his incredible test career, bringing up his 13th Test half-century and partnering with mentor Steve Smith to help continue Australia’s batting masterclass.

The milestone was brought up with a sweep to the boundary and a nonchalant bat raise as the star batsman clearly had his eyes set on a bigger score.

Coming in after the wicket of Warner, Labuschagne stood firm against an energized Pakistani attack, negotiating the short ball well before pushing the scoring rate.

With dark clouds surrounding the ground, both Smith and Labuschagne continued to defy the bowling attack, defending watchfully and putting the bad balls away as they continued to chip into Pakistan’s lead.

Labuschagne and Smith see Australia to stumps as bad light again ends the day early.

Labuschagne and Smith continued to hold out the Pakistan bowling attack before bad light forced players from the field an hour before the scheduled end of play.

Both Labuschagne (69) and Smith (24) looked well set, untroubled by a visibly tired Pakistan attack as the pair moved their partnership past 50 with ease.

At Stumps, Australia sits at 2-271 still trailing by 205 runs.

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