Australia’s new-look batting line-up is set for a major examination after Pakistan built an imposing first-innings total in the first Test in Dubai.
At stumps on day two Australia were 0-30, trailing by 452 runs after bowling Pakistan out for 482 late in Monday’s final session.
Usman Khawaja (17no) and Aaron Finch (13no) withstood 13 overs as Pakistan wasted little time bringing ace leg-spinner Yasir Shah into the attack.
Test debutant Finch was lucky to survive a big appeal for lbw from Yasir’s second delivery.
Replays showed the ball would have clipped leg stump but the umpire’s call would not have been overturned, meaning a Pakistan review would have been fruitless.
Yasir looms as a major weapon for Pakistan with the pitch already showing signs it is beginning to deteriorate.
Australia have only won on three occasions in Test cricket after conceding at least 482 runs in the first innings.
Already there are ominous parallels to Australia’s most recent visit to the UAE which ended in a humbling 2-0 series defeat.
In both of the two Tests in 2014, Australia lost the toss and conceded first-innings totals greater than 450 runs which left them chasing the game and set the course for heavy defeats at the hands of Pakistan’s quality spinners.
Pakistan won the first Test by 221 runs and the second by a whopping 356.
Australia’s top six in Dubai contains three debutants in Finch, Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne with Khawaja and Mitch Marsh both promoted up the order.
South Africa-born debutant Labuschagne on Monday demonstrated his value as a triple-threat, inspiring Australia with the ball and in the field.
The part-time legspinner removed Asad Shafiq (80) with a ripping delivery which caught the right-hander’s edge before running out Babar Azam at midwicket.
“The wicket is pretty good. It’s deteriorated a little bit but I think it’ll hold together pretty well,” Labuschagne said.
“If we can put a really good batting performance on the board, which I’m sure we will, that’ll put us in really good stead for that third innings.”
Labuschagne, who spoke Afrikaans in his native country and did not learn English until he arrived in Australia as a 10-year-old, was delighted to have provided his teammates with a spark.
“I’m just happy that I was able to contribute in some way out there,” he said. “It’s a dream come true, playing for your country and being able to represent Australia.
Pakistan batsman Haris Sohail, who scored a maiden Test century to join opener Mohammad Hafeez in reaching triple-figures, said patience had been key during an opening session in which Australia opted not to take the new ball.
“At on stage the seam of the ball was torn,” Sohail said.
“They had not taken the new ball and the ball had got soft, and even if you middle the ball it was not going to cross the inner circle.
“But we had thought that once they take the new ball then runs will come, and it happened.”
Australian captain Tim Paine faced criticism for persisting with the new ball until the 120th over, allowing Shafiq and Sohail to settle at the crease.
Australia’s quicks had managed to generate reverse-swing from the ageing ball but former Test batsman Mark Waugh said on Fox Sports he would have made the change after four overs.