Bowlers spin Pakistan to victory against Australia

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Bowlers spin Pakistan to victory against Australia

Zulfiqar bags five wickets and Yasir takes four to end Australian resistance

By Sunil K. Vaidya/sports Editor

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Published: Mon 27 Oct 2014, 2:01 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 9:12 PM

Pakistani players celebrate after Australian batsman Mitchell Johnson was stumped during the fifth day of the first test cricket match between Pakistan and Australia at Dubai International Stadium in Dubai. -AFP

The balls that didn’t turn gave Pakistani spinners a bagful of wickets as rookie left arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar, who made his successful Test debut at Abu Dhabi at the age of 34 last year, spun Pakistan to a 221–run Test triumph on Sunday.

Zulfiqar (31.1-7-74-5) produced the best Test figures in his three-Test career and that was enough to quell some stiff resistance from the determined Australians. But once again it was not some devilish turn on the Dubai International Cricket Stadium turf but Zulfiqar’s intelligent bowling with speed variations and good use of arm ball that brought about the Australian downfall.

Debutant Yasir Shah (25-6-50-4) also used his skidding straight deliveries to good use for his share in Pakistan’s second successive Test win over Australia.

Once again most of the Australian batsmen, except Steven Smith (55 runs, 175 balls, 234 minutes, three 4s) and Mitchell Johnson (61, 127 balls, 165 minutes, five 4s, one 6), proved laden-footed. As long as Smith was in the middle, the Australians had a slim chance of forcing a draw and left-handed Johnson supported him well but their efforts were in vain.

Both used their feet nimbly against spinners as only one wicket fell in the second session of the day and that did worry Misbahul Haq. “It was a difficult session, we missed chances (three dropped catches and fluffed stumping) and that was something to worry about but we had to keep faith in our ability to take wickets,” the Pakistan skipper confessed after the match.

Smith was reprieved twice. Skipper Misbah failed to latch on to a difficult chance when the compact right-hander was on 44. Before that wicket keeper Sarfraz Ahmed missed an easy stumping when the Australian was on 37. Johnson was also dropped – first by Ahmed Shehzad and then Yasir.

If those chances were grabbed by the Pakistanis, then the victory could have come to them much earlier but it was stretched well after tea time and only 21.5 overs to spare for the day.

Smith dealt in singles and doubles as he built two partnerships in a bid to force a draw. He looked best of the Australian batsmen to deal with the Pakistani bowlers on this slow pitch where the ball skidded more than turned. He didn’t hesitate to dance down the wicket to tackle the spinners. He was by and large successful in his method although it is another matter that he almost lost his wicket to that adventurous tackling of spinners when he misread Yasir and survived a stumping chance.

A dogged approach from left-handed opener Chris Rogers (43, 131 balls, 171 minutes, one 4) helped Smith add 43 runs for the fifth wicket but it was his 65-run association with Johnson that probably gave the Pakistani camp a few anxious moments. Johnson was not averse to taking his chances to hit past the ropes and even walloped Zulfiqar over wide mid-on for the lone six of the innings.

Kudos to the two Pakistani spinners, who had played only two Tests between them before their heroic performance in Pakistan’s thumping first Test win.

Zulfiqar had taken five wickets in his debut Test against South Africa and Pakistan had won that match last year at the Shaikh Zayed Stadium, venue where Pakistan will play second Test fromThursdayin a bid to win the series. The first five-wicket haul gave Zulfiqar seven match wickets in Pakistan’s another win on Sunday in Dubai.

Yasir also finished with seven match wickets on his Pakistan debut in Dubai and would look forward to have another fruitful outing in Abu Dhabi. The leg spinner cleverly used faster deliveries to skid past the Australian batsmen, who were playing for a turn. Yasir, who doesn’t have a googly in his repertoire, bowled his straighter deliveries with great success.

The slow-paced wicket at the Ring of Fire, as the Dubai stadium is known, stayed true for all five days but Pakistani batsmen made better use of the conditions than the Australians to take 1-0 series lead.

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