Pakistan scent victory against Australia

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Pakistan scent victory against Australia

Younis and Shehzad tons give spinners platform to deliver knockout punch to Aussies

By Sunil K. Vaidya

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Published: Sun 26 Oct 2014, 12:08 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 7:12 PM

Dubai: The Australians are staring down the barrel of a gun in the first Test against Pakistan after losing four wickets in the space of 22 balls while chasing an uphill target of 438 runs on the Dubai International Cricket Stadium pitch that continued to play good on the fourth day on Saturday.

The expected demons on the dry turf were nowhere as the Aussie pacers failed to produce reverse swing and the spinners were not getting any turn that could have troubled the Pakistani batsmen. On the other hand the Australians tottered in the second innings to end the day at 59 for four wickets. The technique or rather lack of it was the chief reason for the dipping Australian fortunes while the batsmen in the Pakistan camp showed how to play long innings on this track.

The Pakistani centurions Ahmed Shehzad (131, 233 balls, 300 minutes, 10 4s, four 6s) and Younis Khan (103 not out, 152 balls, 225 minutes, six 4s, two 6s) flourished by cleverly stepping out to the spinners while the Australians were rooted in their crease in the last one and half hours of play to find themselves in this precarious situation.

Left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar (2-22) and debutant leggie Yasir Shah (2-8) capitalised on the uncertainty in the Australian minds to take four wickets and all four fell to perceived turn that wasn’t there.

The umpires — Marais Erasmus and Kettleborough — were busy again, either raising fingers or asking for reviews when the Pakistani spinners unleashed an 18-minute of mayhem, taking four Australian wickets in the space of 21 balls. Before that, the Pakistani batsmen gave the umpires a much more relaxed time by allowing the Australians few opportunities to appeal.

The Aussie downfall began when David Warner was foxed by Zulfiqar’s arm ball that angled across him as he stepped out to nullify the foot mark dangers and wicket keeper Sarfraz Ahmed did the rest for an easy stumping. Alex Doolan also defensively played for the turn but was trapped in front with a straight one.

At the other end, it was the turn of Yasir to get two wickets without turning the ball away from the right-handers. First he caught Michael Clarke plumb in front of the wickets when the Aussie captain wrongly played for a leg break to a slider that came straight on. He may have had a case to ask for a review but later he confessed that he wasn’t sure that he had nicked the ball.

Three balls later night watchman Nathan Lyon did the same mistake of playing from deep inside the crease against Yasir and umpire Kettleborough had no hesitation in raising his finger for an easy lbw decision.

It appeared that the two teams were batting on two different tracks. While Australians struggled in the last 22 overs of the day, the Pakistani batsmen — Shezad and Younis — calmly blunted the Aussie attack.

Shehzad, who made the most of the two reprieves he got, showed some remarkable patience as well intelligence to first absorb the aggression of the Australian pace bowlers and then take them to the cleaners after what appeared to be a missive from the dressing room when he was on 77. He singled out Peter Siddle to hit two sixes and a four in an over as he stepped scoring.

Younis, at the other hand, used the sweep shot to good effect, for his record second century of the match, which also took him past Inzamam-ul-Haq’s record of most (26) centuries for Pakistan. He is the first Pakistani to score hundreds in both innings against Australia and overall seven Pakistani have attained the feat.

It looked like Pakistan (286 for 2 declared) may have delayed the declaration a bit in their conservative approach of setting a bigger target rather than looking at a minimum of four sessions for taking 10 Australian wickets.

However, the insipid Australian batting in the final hour gave the skipper Misbah-ul-Haq a lot to smile about and proud of his decision to declare when he wanted. It will be a matter of time today before Pakistan take the lead in the two-Test series.

sunilvaidya@khaleejtimes.com



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