The Pakistanis have generously gifted Australian opener Usman Khawaja an extra life early on day three of the Rawalpindi Test.
Australia have a mountain to climb on day three of the first Test in Rawulpindi after Pakistan declared its first innings at 4/476.
While Pakistan have three spinners at their disposal, the Aussies start the day at 0/5 after bad light cut play short on day two.
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It’s been a brutal slog for the bowlers, but Australia’s resilience against spinners on the subcontinent is sure to be tested.
Play is scheduled to start at 3.50pm AEDT.
Century stand for Aussie openers
Things are ticking along nicely for David Warner and Usman Khawaja at the moment, with the opening pair combining for an unbeaten partnership at Pindi Cricket Stadium.
The pitch has offered the Pakistan bowlers hardly any assistance this morning. It could be a long day in the field for Babar Azam and his teammates.
Fifty for Khawaja
Pakistan-born Usman Khawaja has brought up a half-century in his first Test innings in the nation of his birth.
The 35-year-old reached the milestone in 67 deliveries.
Khawaja gifted early life in homecoming
The Pakistanis have gifted Australian opener Usman Khawaja an extra life early on day three of the Rawalpindi Test, with Fawad Alam dropping a regulation catch at gully.
Speedster Shaheen Shah Afridi lured Khawaja into playing the cover drive, with the thick outside edge flying quickly towards Alam.
But the 36-year-old grassed the chance, and Afridi sunk to his knees in disbelief.
“Easy, easy catch,” Pakistan great Waqar Younis said in commentary.
“Big miss. Shaheen is not going to like that, that’s for sure.”
To rub salt into the wounds, Khawaja cracked consecutive boundaries off the next two deliveries.
Chances were are to come by on Saturday, and Alam’s drop could prove costly for the Pakistanis.
Khawaja remains unbeaten on 32 after 12 overs, with Warner at the other end on 10.
Cricket great’s backflip on selection outrage
Former Aussie opener Simon Katich has led a rethinking of the criticism of Australia’s selection for the first Test against Pakistan.
When it became clear the pitch was a lifeless highway except for Nathan Lyon who extracted plenty of early spin, the criticism began that the Aussies had missed a trick not handing Mitchell Swepson his Test debut.
“The Australians have missed a trick here,” former Pakistan captain Waqar Younis said in commentary.
“Out of 22 overs, there’s been 11 bowled by the spinners.”
But after watching Australia toil for two days, Katich has a different opinion.
Reverse swing became a factor on day two and even though it didn’t lead to many wickets, it gave Australia options.
“I actually agree with the team they picked,” Katich said in commentary. “I didn’t see it being the wrong balance.
“I think they looked at all numbers here and realised that spin has a part to play, but the quicks have a better record at this venue. So I don’t know it would make a huge difference, especially if young Mitchell Swepson was on debut.
“That’s no disrespect to him, I think he’s a good young spin bowler who’s done well in the Sheffield Shield … but I just think with this surface there’s not a huge amount here for the spinners, except for the first bit of play when there was moisture on top.
“Yes, it might spin later in the Test match, but I think because Pakistan won the toss the balance of their team looks fantastic because they have runs on the board.”
But while it’s been tough for the Aussies to take wickets, former Pakistan international Bazid Khan has said Australia can’t get complacent as the Pakistan batters showed great patience.
“What we’ve seen so far is each player has given themselves time,” Khan said. “It’s difficult really to strike the ball, sort of waiting for it, building that innings slowly.
“I think the challenge for Australia will be to build the innings that way.
“Marnus (Labuschagne), Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja are the type of players who bat time and make sure that they’re in … the other Australian batters like to get on with it.
“I don’t think the pitch will allow you to be aggressive in that manner. The ball is not necessarily jumping onto the bat to be able to hit through the line or hit boundaries for fun.”