KARACHI, TGO: Opening batter Usman Khawaja didn’t miss out on a second chance to score a century in the country of his birth and led Australia to 251-3 at stumps on the first day of the second test against Pakistan on Saturday.
Khawaja made an unbeaten 127 off 266 balls on another flat wicket after narrowly missing out on a hundred in the first test at Rawalpindi which ended in a tame draw. Later the docile pitch of the Pindi Cricket Stadium was declared “below average” by the ICC.
“It (century) meant a lot to me,” said Khawaja, who moved to Australia with his family when he was 4 years old. “Obviously my family is from Karachi, I was born in Islamabad and I would have loved to score a hundred in Pakistan.”
Khawaja and Steve Smith (72) shared a 159-run third-wicket stand before Pakistan broke it with the second new ball when Faheem Ashraf took a brilliant one-handed low catch in the slips to dismiss Smith off Hasan Ali (1-31).
Nightwatchman Nathan Lyon was yet to score and survived a dropped catch when Imam-ul-Haq couldn’t hold on to a tough chance at forward short leg off Shaheen Afridi’s last ball of the day.
Pakistan also went for an unsuccessful caught behind television review of Khawaja in Afridi’s first over with the new ball before Hasan struck in the penultimate over of the day.
Pakistan deployed its spinners for 26 overs in the last session, but their negative tactic of bowling down the legside to both batters did nothing else but to slow down the Australian scoring rate.
“It wasn’t a negative bowling, we just tried to dry up the runs because they had benefitted from a dry wicket and scored 100 runs in the first session,” Pakistan vice-captain Mohammad Rizwan said.
“I still believe we can have result on this pitch and there will be turn for the spinners later on.”
Khawaja, who raised his half-century off 69 balls in the first session, didn’t get frustrated and waited patiently before completing his century in the last session off 193 balls with 12 fours and a six.
Smith hasn’t scored a test hundred for the last 27 test innings, but made his second successive half-century in Australia’s first tour to Pakistan since 1998 off 214 balls with seven fours before Ashraf plucked an impressive catch.
Earlier, Pakistan had got two quick wickets before lunch before Khawaja and Smith toyed with the bowlers on a docile wicket, which both teams expect to help out spinners as the game progresses.
Khawaja was especially strong off his pads on the leg side against fast bowlers and even swept the two spinners with comfort as the wicket offered no assistance to the bowlers.
Khawaja and David Warner (36) provided Australia a brisk start of 82 runs after skipper Pat Cummins won the toss and elected to bat. Pakistan hit back with two wickets, but Australia still managed to reach 100-2 in the first session.
Pakistan came back in the last hour before lunch when Ashraf (1-32) found the outside edge of Warner’s bat off a delivery that moved a fraction away from the left-hander.
Marnus Labuschagne, who faced nine balls, was run out without scoring when he couldn’t beat the direct throw from Sajid Khan at mid-off and fell short of his crease at the non-striker’s end.
Khawaja, who was dismissed for 97 in the first test, and Warner had earlier dominated the first hour by scoring a rapid 63 off 14 overs.
Fast bowler Hasan Ali, one of the two changes Pakistan had made from the first test along with Ashraf, and Afridi couldn’t find any movement off a flat, grassless surface.
Both batsmen weren’t troubled by fast bowlers and also took early charge against spinners by hitting straight sixes off off-spinner Sajid Khan before Pakistan chipped in with the two quick wickets.
Earlier, leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson was awarded a test debut as the 28-year-old Queenslander replaced fast bowler Josh Hazlewood in the only change Australia made from the first test which ended in a draw on a docile wicket at Rawalpindi.
Pakistan also made two changes but retained both its specialist spinners Sajid (0-71) and left-arm spinner Nauman Ali (0-56), who took a career-best 6-107 in the first test but not before Australia had made a solid reply by racking up 449.
Hasan and Ashraf both returned after missing out the first test due to injuries. They replaced fast bowler Naseem Shah and all-rounder Iftikhar Ahmed.