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Pakistan v Australia: Khawaja falls short on 97 as Australia finish on 2/271

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6th March, 2022
9

Another day, another descent into sweet, sweet darkness. Normally one is annoyed to see the batters come off for bad light, but on this rare occasion, it seemed somewhat pointless to keep going.

Australia approached this first morning with vigour, smashing Pakistan around at nearly 5 an over in the first session, but in truth, they could probably have scored at 10 an over and this would still end in a draw, such is the unlikelihood of 10 wickets being taken in an innings.

Unless some very drastic happens with the pitch, we’re set for another two days of watching fielders throw the ball back in from the fence. It’s not so much a criticism of Pakistan, because we’ve seen this sort of pitch everywhere from Melbourne to Southampton, but forgive me if I vent.

I go to the Sheffield Shield. I read long books. For my sins, I listen to In Our Time and sometimes pretend to understand it. What I’m trying to say here is that I’ve got an attention span.

But honestly, this is a slow one and it only looks like slowing down from here. Anyone fancy a sweepstake on which wicket keeper bowls first?

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Australia 2/271 at stumps on Day 3 – Pakistan made 4/476d

We’ll be forever loving ‘ja

Usman Khawaja is one of life’s good guys. Not many have a bad word to say about Uzzy, and it would have been superb to see him get a Test century just down the road from his birthplace in Islamabad.

Let’s go further: it would have probably been the crowning moment of a career with more crowning moments than Willy Wonka’s dental history. Forget the twin tons at Sydney or the match-saving marathon of Dubai, you feel this would have been the one that he felt the most strongly about.

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Alas it wasn’t to be, out off the glove reverse sweeping Nauman Ali on 97, but let’s not hold it against him.

It always looks a bit silly when you get out on the reverse, but come on: even Jimmy Anderson does them now. They’re a perfectly acceptable cricket shot and Khawaja had been hitting them all day.

It’s sad, but these things happen.

There is no light and they never get out

Australia’s innings has basically followed the same tedious path as Pakistan’s, only quicker. While the hosts trundled at just shy of 3 an over, Australia managed to up that to just under 4 by the time the umpires decided it was too dim to go on.

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One of the issues that flagged ahead of a track like this, most notably by the ever-excellent Geoff Lemon, was that Australia’s batting line-up has a preponderance of players that can bat at 6 an over or 0 an over and basically nowhere in between. That’s a test to come, likely in Karachi.

Given that it is basically impossible to get out on this wicket – six in three days, and four of them severe batsman error or run out – it probably won’t matter a jot how quick Australia go and the best that they can hope for is returning the favour and tiring Pakistan’s bowlers out.

Hello, Nauman.

Much was made of the spinning options, or lack thereof, that Australia had. Pakistan’s innings categorically proved that fast bowling on this wicket was essentially pointless, with the thick end of 500 deliveries’ worth of fast bowling thrown down for one wicket.

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Pakistan’s main two spinners might not look the part – Sajid Khan should be coming into bowl on a fixie bike, Nauman Ali on a zimmer frame – but they did at least ask different questions to Australia.

Both were more expensive than Nathan Lyon, but were capable to create opportunities from this most lifeless of surfaces.

Sajid Khan’s wicket was exactly what he intended, drawing David Warner into revealing all three stumps and then beating him with one that kept low, while Nauman Ali clipped Usman Khawaja’s glove midway through a reverse sweep to get his.

It does make you wonder why Pakistan didn’t either go harder earlier with the bat, or if they mightn’t have been better off waiting a little for the pitch to deteriorate yet further for their lads to get a go at it.

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