Pakistan on top despite Warner ton


Same predicament, different country. Pakistan encircled Australia on the third day in Dubai, preying on batting weaknesses glimpsed on countless previous occasions, whenever Michael Clarke’s men have been confronted by a dry surface and diligent bowlers.

At one point in the afternoon, Australia’s coach Darren Lehmann could be seen with a hand shielding his face from the cricket in the middle and the Cricket Australia laptops in front of him. He had seen it all before, as recently as the tourists’ defeat in their only warm-up match, but seemed unable to prevent the unfolding of a familiar script. Brilliantly as Australia performed at home and then in South Africa last summer, they seem unable to transcend their antipathy for reverse swing, spin and sluggish pitches.

Starting on a promising 113 without loss, Australia were rounded up for a mere 303. Only an ebullient 133 from David Warner, his third century in consecutive innings, gave any spine to the scorecard. But Warner’s effort was the exception that proved the rule, as a succession of batsmen failed to get comfortable, allowing a recently tentative Pakistan to take unexpected control.

Rahat Ali, Zulfiqar Babar and Yasir Shah were names unfamiliar to Australia before this series. All delivered quality spells, with Rahat finding reverse swing to dismiss Chris Rogers and becalm Alex Doolan, and Babar varying his flight and spin in a way Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe could not on the way to deceiving a hesitant Clarke and the debutant Mitchell Marsh.

Yasir struck pivotally on either side of lunch, coaxing Steve Smith into an airy cut just when he appeared to be set, then bowling Warner when the opener misread the degree of turn. Brad Haddin tried to muscle the second new ball but dragged Imran Khan onto the stumps, and Marsh was lbw to Babar after successfully reviewing a caught behind verdict in favour of Rahat.

The tail could summon no miracles, and when bad light ended play, Ahmed Shehzad and Azhar Ali had glided to 38 for 0 and an advantage of 189. The loss of two wickets for seven runs in the first half-hour of the Test now feels a distant memory, as does the suspension of Saeed Ajmal. On the evidence of day three, it is just as well for Australia he isn’t playing.

Misbah-ul-Haq began the day with Rahat and Hafeez in tandem, and Rogers was soon troubled by the old ball moving through the air and lower bounce than he preferred. Shaping to cut Rahat, he was cramped by a delivery angling back at him, and chopped it onto the stumps.

Doolan’s innings was strangely diffident, recalling his statuesque innings in similarly dry, slow and reversing conditions against South Africa in Port Elizabeth earlier in the year. Unable to puncture a ring field or rotate the strike, he fretted over five runs and 34 balls before chancing a single from a ball struck firmly to mid-on and was found short when Rahat aimed unerringly.

Clarke’s hands were firm and his footwork uncertain, his brief stay ending when he squeezed Babar to short leg. And while Smith looked almost as comfortable as Warner in a stand of 48, he fell prey to mental error by slicing Yasir to backward point. Smith leaned angrily on his bat when the catch was taken, and the importance of his wicket was emphasised in the first over of the afternoon. Yasir then deceived Warner with a quicker delivery angled in from around the wicket, earning the Twittersphere praise of Shane Warne in the process.

Haddin and Marsh hinted at a pivotal union when the wicketkeeper lofted Yasir into the stands as he sought to wrest back some momentum, but Imran and Rahat both moved the second new ball enough to cause misjudgments: Haddin’s edge onto the stumps went someway to levelling up his liberal allocation of good fortune during last summer’s Ashes. Marsh used his long reach to play the spinners with composure, but played around a straight delivery from Babar to fall lbw on review, causing his father Geoff to angrily motion a forward defensive in the stands.

Peter Siddle, oddly sent in ahead of the more accomplished batsman O’Keefe, was soon lbw to Hafeez. Mitchell Johnson and O’Keefe scrounged 32, but Johnson succumbed to a hook, and when the spinner skied a slog at Yasir, Australia had fallen a third short. Pakistan’s path towards victory is broadening, Australia’s is narrow and arduous.

PAKISTAN 1st innings     454

AUSTRALIA 1st innings

CJL Rogers b Rahat Ali    38

DA Warner b Yasir Shah 133

AJ Doolan run out (Rahat Ali)      5

MJ Clarke c Azhar Ali b Zulfiqar Babar      2

SPD Smith c Mohammad Hafeez b Yasir Shah      22

MR Marsh lbw b Zulfiqar Babar  27

BJ Haddin b Imran Khan                22

MG Johnson c sub (Shan Masood) b Rahat Ali     37

PM Siddle lbw b Mohammad Hafeez      0

SNJ O’Keefe c Misbah-ul-Haq b Yasir Shah            6

NM Lyon not out              4

Extras (b 4, lb 2, nb 1)     7

Total (all out; 103.1 overs)            303

Fall of wickets 1-128 (Rogers, 37.3 ov), 2-151 (Doolan, 48.6 ov), 3-158 (Clarke, 52.1 ov), 4-206 (Smith, 64.6 ov), 5-207 (Warner, 66.3 ov), 6-249 (Haddin, 80.4 ov), 7-262 (Marsh, 86.4 ov), 8-267 (Siddle, 87.6 ov), 9-299 (Johnson, 102.1 ov), 10-303 (O’Keefe, 103.1 ov)


Rahat Ali 19         0              55           2              2.89

Mohammad Hafeez 25.4              5              54           1              2.10

Imran Khan 15   3              41           1              2.73

Zulfiqar Babar 27              2              81           2              3.00

Yasir Shah 16.3  1              66           3              4.00        (1nb)

PAKISTAN 2nd innings

Ahmed Shehzadnot out                22

Azhar Ali not out              16

Extras 0

Total (0 wickets; 13 overs)            38

To batMohammad Hafeez, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq*, Asad Shafiq, Sarfraz Ahmed†, Zulfiqar Babar, Yasir Shah, Rahat Ali, Imran Khan


MG Johnson 3-1-9-0, PM Siddle 3-1-8-0, NM Lyon 5-0-15-0, -SNJ O’Keefe 2-1-6-0


Toss – Pakistan, who chose to bat

Test debuts – MR Marsh and SNJ O’Keefe (Australia); Imran Khan and Yasir Shah (Pakistan)

Player of the match – tba

Umpires – M Erasmus (South Africa) and RA Kettleborough (England)

TV umpire – NJ Llong (England)

Match referee – RS Madugalle (Sri Lanka)

Reserve umpire – Ahsan Raza (Pakistan)