Dubai: Australian opener Usman Khawaja stood like a colossus and steered his team to a tremendous draw against Pakistan in the first Test match at Dubai International Stadium through a spectacular knock of 141 runs.
Skipper Tim Paine displayed the maturity and responsibility needed off a new captain and fought valiantly to remain unbeaten with 61 runs. Australians played their longest ever fourth innings, playing out 139.5 overs to produce a creditable draw. It was a brilliant exhibition of patience, backed by the fighting spirt from the Australians, who had almost lost the match on the fourth day. Khawaja, the Pakistan-born Australian opener prevented his country of birth from going one up in the two Test series by staying at the wicket for 524 minutes, facing 302 balls and hitting 11 boundaries.
Chasing a target of 462 runs, Australians ended at 362 for eight. Pakistan tried everything possible to take the last two wickets but failed in the end.
Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmad’s captaincy may now come into question for not intelligently using his bowlers, especially Mohammad Abbas who bowled brilliantly on the fourth day. He may also be questioned for not going for a review to a plum leg before decision against Travis Head at a crucial juncture of the game.
Paine, along with Nathan Lyon, batted out the last 12.1 overs through an unbeaten 29 runs partnership to ensure the draw.
Australia started the final day at 138 for three needing to score another 326 runs. Except for a four-run bye off the second ball of the day there wasn’t any boundaries for the first four overs. Khawaja scored the first boundary when he clipped Wahab Riaz off his pads. Bilal Asif beat Head all ends up with a beautiful delivery in the 55th over but Australia went past the 150-run mark in the next over.
Head reached his maiden half century in 119 balls as the partnership began to swell. The first hour turned out to be the way Australians wanted scoring 42 runs without losing any wicket. The pair put on 100 runs in 40 overs and looked set for more runs.
When Australia went past the 200-run mark, the pressure shifted onto Pakistan bowlers. Pakistan returned to the pavilion for a disturbed lunch with Australia scoring 79 from the 29 overs bowled in the morning session and losing no wicket. Pakistan regretted that they did not review a plumb leg before against Head on 44 off a Yasir Shah delivery.
The new ball was taken as soon as it was due in the 80th over and off spinner Mohammad Hafeez, who was surprisingly given the ball, struck with the very first ball by trapping Head leg before for 72 with a ball that skid in. His knock came off 175 balls had five boundaries and he put on 132 runs in 48.3 overs with Khawaja.
Marnus Labuschagne joined Khawaja, who steadily moved towards his seventh Test hundred. Khawaja reached his three figure mark in 224 balls with ten boundaries. Labuschagne added 33 runs in nine overs for the fifth wicket when Yasir Shah had him trapped leg before for 13.
With half the side back in the pavilion and Australia still needing 210 runs, their skipper Paine joined Khawaja. He survived nervy moments against spinners but provided good support to Khawaja, who kept finding the gaps.
Khawaja earned the honour of recording the highest score by an Australian batsman in Asia in the fourth innings overtaking Ricky Ponting’s 118 against Bangladesh in 2006. During the session before tea, Australia added 74 runs from the 30 overs losing just two wickets and needed 173 more to win.
Pakistan were left with 31 more overs to get the remaining wickets in the last session. Paine, by clipping Riaz wide of fine leg for a boundary, recorded the fifty run partnership with Khawaja.
When 14.3 overs were left for the day, Shah made Khawaja miss a sweep and got trapped leg before for 141. It ended his 79 runs partnership of 36.2 overs with Paine. Shah quickly removed Starc brilliantly caught by Babar Azam at square leg and also trapped Peter Siddle leg before for a duck. Paine along with Lyon stayed on to ensure the draw.