Australia batted through 88 overs for the loss of only five wickets on day one at Lahore as Pakistan continued to chip away taking important wickets in both the first and last sessions of the day. Australia finished the day with a score of 5/232.
Australia began the day by winning the toss but that was the start of the good news for a little while at least. David Warner went for only seven when he was struck in front by the bowling of Shaheen Afridi.
Warner has historically loved batting in Pakistan averaging just under 100 against the nation but on this tour, he has only passed 50 once. With another tough tour against coming up sooner rather than later questions are bound to be asked about his place in the side, especially with him pushing past 35 years of age.
Marnus Labuschagne went not long after, thankfully it wasn’t a run out this time, but he has also struggled on this tour. His record still looks great but it’s fair to say his away record doesn’t live up to his reputation. It was a second ball duck with him edging behind to the keeper from a ball that could’ve been left alone. Labuschagne showed in the Australia summer that leaving was his strength but that wasn’t to be today.
Usman Khawaja spoke about how well Shaheen Afridi bowled to take both wickets early.
"He's obviously a great bowler and a great new ball bowler.
"He had his tail up and got David [Warner] early before getting Marnus [Labuschange] in the next over. I felt like at the start it was nipping around too much but every time you go out as a new batsman you're vulnerable and today Shaheen got the rewards."
Thankfully it was once again Usman Khawaja to save the day for Australia alongside Steve Smith. The pair batted slowly on what was a flat yet spinning pitch. How can it be both, well the spin was slow, really slow, in fact, this pitch is also almost identical to the one at Karachi.
The pair negated the five bowlers of Pakistan through the first session going to lunch on 70 from only 24 overs bowled. Amazingly Khawaja was only on 31, which just shows how slow and difficult it is to score on this pitch is. In the first two matches, Khawaja had easily pushed past 50 before lunch in both of his first-innings scores.
The 50 eventually did come up for Khawaja from 105 balls including one six that got him going towards the end of the lunch break. Smith wasn’t too far behind although he had faced 154 balls for his half-century. It was no doubt a tough scoring session for the Aussies who only put on 70 runs from 30 overs when the umpires allowed the tea break.
The break didn’t do Australia much good with Smith getting out not too long after. Smith fell short of another century and just missed out on a massive 8000 Test run milestone; those feats will have to wait. He was struck from a good length ball that came in a long way while also keeping quite low.
The good news from Smith’s wicket was that this pitch will actually have something in it for the bowlers even if it just lows bounce. After two drawn Tests it’s good to finally have something in it for the bowlers.
"The good news is that he is doing all the hard work and going through his process the right way. You can't force the game out here, he batted really well today." Khawaja said of Smith's batting today.
Khawaja continued to look good sweeping the spinners and keeping out the reverse swing that was a consistent part of the day's play. He didn’t find the boundary as often as usual, but singles were his for the taking as he looked like getting to another Test century.
Unfortunately for him, he was stuck in the 90s once again when he got a leading edge off Sajid Khan that flew to first slip who took a catch low to his left to dismiss Australia’s most in-form batter. Australia looked in a little bit of trouble now with the score at 4/187.
Usman Khawaja spoke on his innings after the day's play.
"It was a bit of a grind today, the wicket probably wasn't as favoured to scoring as Karachi or Rawpinidi a lot of balls hit the bottom of the bat.
"I felt like I was going to get out with balls going under my bat which is weird for a day one wicket. We also saw reverse swing from the 12th over today so that was difficult."
Travis Head was the next man to go as he edged a good length ball from Naseem Shah through to the keeper. The problem for Head was a lack of footwork, he got stuck on the crease and just threw his hands at the ball.
Cameron Green and Alex Carey then batted out the rest of the day ensuring Australia would at least survive through today two. It looks like Australia will be looking to bat long once again possibly batting through all of day two if that option is still available to them.
Tomorrow Green and Carey will be looking to push the score well past 300 while batting as long into the day as possible. Carey will take confidence from the 93 he scored in the last Test and will believe that he has the game for this level.
Pakistan needs to continue to take wickets, we saw reverse swing from about the 15th over today and with the new ball being eight overs old the spinners will likely take the first few overs before the pace bowlers try to get that reverse swing.
Play is set to get underway tomorrow at 4 pm AEDT as the Aussies continue to push through with the bat.