Rawalpindi : Half-centuries by Usman Khawaja (97), David Warner (68) and Marnus Labuschagne (69 not out) took Australia to 271-2 at stumps on Day 3 and helped reduce the deficit in their first innings of the first Test, here on Sunday.
Australia were 205 runs behind Pakistan’s first innings total when the stumps were drawn with Labuschagne and Steven Smith (24 not out) at the crease.
Resuming the day, 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, misjudged one and attempted a cut shot of just short delivery and ended up getting his stumps shattered.
The foundation was 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 just three runs short of the mark, he 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, an ICC report said.
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.
Just like day two, players were forced off the field due to bad light and stumps were called eventually after it started drizzling in Rawalpindi.
Brief scores: Pakistan 476/4 decl. (Azhar Ali 185, Imam Ul Haq 157, Imam-ul-Haq 157; Pat Cummins 1-62) lead Australia 271/2 (Usman Khawaja 97, David Warner 68; Nauman Ali 1-49) by 205 runs.