Fri, 19 Oct 2018
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Abu Dhabi

Bilal Asif rips through Australia's middle order

ESPNCricInfo
09 Oct 2018, 21:42 GMT+10

3:00 AM ET

Lunch Australia 137 for 0 (Khawaja 68*, Finch 59*) trail Pakistan 482 by 345 runs

One of the most persistent cricketing truisms warns us to never judge a pitch until both sides have batted. Even going by that degree of caution, it may be time to begin passing judgement on this Dubai surface now. On a track yet to develop any demons for batsmen, it was Australia's turn to show what they could do when finally given a chance to bat, ensuring Pakistan began day three with a wicketless session. Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja looked positive and undaunted, taking the attack to any bowler, no matter his reputation, each scoring an unbeaten half-century by lunch.

Where Pakistan's run-rate stayed under three throughout the innings, the Australians were much more positive, adding 107 to their overnight score as they took lunch having chiselled 137 runs out of Pakistan's colossal 482. It might have been much more than that too, but Pakistan turned the screws in the last half hour before lunch, bowling four consecutive maidens at one point.

Pakistan did get a couple of chances to pick up a wicket. The one that will rankle most was Sarfraz Ahmed's failure to inflict a relatively straightforward stumping in just the fourth over of the day, when Khawaja danced down the wicket. But the Pakistan captain missed the ball as it spun away down the legside. It was Yasir Shah once more who had Khawaja a few overs later with a bat-pad to short leg. Despite a ferocious, pleading appeal from the bowler, Sarfraz was unmoved and opted against a review, with replays showing the ball had kissed the inside edge of the bat.

In the morning, Pakistan would have been confident given that a Test debutant was at the crease along with a player who averaged under 15 in Asia. But Finch and Khawaja played like men to whom those descriptions didn't apply. Finch made it a point to consistently come forward to Yasir Shah, never really allowing the bowler to settle on a length. A smashed six down to long-on from Finch was the shot of the morning, evocative of the player who's established such a fearsome reputation in the limited-overs game. He brought up his half-century on debut with a commanding sweep off fellow debutant Bilal Asif, also bringing up the hundred partnership with the same shot.

Khawaja was just as impressive for much of the session, responsible for breaking the shackles late on with a pair of reverse-swept boundaries off Yasir. Unbeaten on 68, this is by far his highest score in Asia. His foot movement was impressive against both pace and spin, and he looked comfortable while playing most of his shots. The early signs suggest the positive mental space he talked about occupying is already paying dividends.

It will need more than one good session for Australia to truly be a force in this Test, but as starts go, they couldn't have asked for more.

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