Rawalpindi, March 6: Usman Khawaja, David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne helped Australia reduce the deficit in the first innings of the Rawalpindi Test.
With bad light stopping play early on day two, Australia had only played one over. With a new day came new challenges.
The Pakistan bowlers were brilliant, bowling some probing lines and lengths with little help from the surface. David Warner even copped a few blows on his body. However, the hosts didn’t reap any rewards for their effort. Usman Khawaja was dropped early in the day on 22 off Shaheen Afridi when Fawad Alam at gully could not hold onto the ball as it flew off the thickish edge of Khawaja’s one-handed drive.
The Australia openers did well to see off the tricky first hour and as the day progressed gained confidence to hit back. Khawaja, being the aggressor, was the first to bring up his fifty in 67 balls. Warner too followed suit a few overs later, registering his 33rd half-century in Tests. The duo looked comfortable in the middle, taking Australia to 138/0 at Lunch, still, 338 runs behind Pakistan’s first-innings total.
Even after lunch, Australia’s approach looked quite impressive. Shaheen Afridi was brought into the attack to prompt the left-handers to make errors but both the batters continued the momentum and brought up their 150 runs opening partnership.
Sajid Khan from the other end kept angling the balls into the left-handers and ultimately managed to break the partnership on 156. Warner who had been comfortably playing Sajid’s fuller length deliveries on backfoot, miss judged one and attempted a cut shot of just short delivery and ended up getting his stumps shattered.
The foundation had been laid by the Australian openers and with Khawja still on the crease, new batter Marnus Labuschagne just had to take his time to settle in the middle. While Marnus took his time, Khawaja was slowly approaching his century but with just three runs short of his century Khawaja attempted a reverse sweep off Nauman Ali, a shot which led to the end of his brilliant innings on 97 (159).
Tea break was not far when Steven Smith came out to the crease and to make full use of the situation Shaheen Afridi welcomed Smith with some bouncers but Smith handled the situation maturely and Australia went for tea 222/2.
With dark clouds hovering above, the final session of the day started. Labuschagne and Smith continued their innings with total control, and Labuschagne with a pair of boundaries in Sajid Khan’s over brought up his fifty.
Like day two, players were forced off the field due to bad light and stumps was called eventually after it started drizzling in Rawalpindi.