Australia pulled off a valiant draw against Pakistan in the first Test match in Dubai thanks to a heroic century from Usman Khawaja.
Pakistan were left to rue their decision not to enforce the follow-on after a disastrous Australian first innings that left the visitors with their backs to the wall. Second innings heroics from Pakistan-born Usman Khawaja (who batted for most of day five) and Australian captain Tim Paine secured the draw.
Resuming on 136-3, Khawaja with Travis Head batted through the morning session as Australia laid the foundations for their fightback. Head survived a tricky initial period at the crease but, once he got going, worked his way to a maiden half-century on Test debut before being dismissed soon after the break for lunch.
Mohammad Hafeez made the breakthrough with the new ball with an off-spinner that didn’t turn, instead skidding off the line of off stump and trapping Head plumb in front on after a well-played 72 off 175 balls (five fours).
The Pakistan side started buzzing as Marnus Labuschagne (13 off 24 balls, one six) failed once again to make an impression with the bat, in the process becoming the first wicket to fall in the entire match for the home side’s talismanic spinner Yasir Shah.
Australian captain Tim Paine was the next to join Khawaja at the crease and the two saw out the rest of the second session with relative ease. Their partnership of 79 runs off 220 balls for the sixth wicket gave the Australian dressing room faith that they could rescue a draw from a match that offered the new-look Aussie side little joy.
Yasir Shah refused to give up the fight, dismissing Khawaja with less than 15 overs remaining. The Australian opener will have been disappointed to have fallen just short of carrying his bat throughout the innings, losing his wicket after a hard-fought 141 off 302 balls (11 fours) with 14 overs left in the innings.
Yasir Shah had Mitchell Starc caught by Babar Azam for a single and trapped Peter Siddle leg before for a three-ball duck, before the ever-reliable Nathan Lyon blocked out 34 balls along with his captain to secure the draw with just two wickets in hand.
Yasir Shah returned the finger-numbing figures of 43.5-9-114-4 (econ 2.60) and Mohammad Abbas 27-7-56-3 (econ 2.07), but first innings hero Bilal Asif failed to snag a second innings wicket. Usman Khawaja was a worthy choice for Player of the Match for his innings of 85 and 141.
The second Test at Abu Dhabi starts on Tuesday 16 October.
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