Abu Dhabi: Australia’s dream of a series win in Asia since 2011 seems to have fast faded as Pakistan have reached a position of strength in the second Test on Wednesday, from where they cannot lose the match and series.
The hosts have a healthy 281-run lead, with eight wickets in hand, at the end of the second day of the series-deciding Test at the Shaikh Zayed Stadium. At stumps, Pakistan were 144 for 2 in 44 overs with Azhar Ali, who survived a close Lbw review in the penultimate over of the day, on an unbeaten 54 and Haris Sohail on 17.
Azhar was also involved in a partnership of 91 for the second wicket with debutant Fakhar Zaman, who scored an attacking 66, after Mohammad Hafeez went cheaply for six.
Earlier, Mohammad Abbas’s five for 33 from 12.4 overs saw the Australia innings fold up at a paltry 145 in 50.4 overs — 137 run short of Pakistan first innings score of 282.
Abbas, who became the joint second fastest Pakistani to the milestone of 50 wickets with Waqar Younis, Mohammad Asif and Shabbir Ahmad, clearly underlined his wicket-taking abilities yet again with his third five-wicket haul since his debut in April 2017.
“I focused on my bowling. I want to give credit to the physio (Cliff Deacon of South Africa) for helping me to play in this Test as I got a jolt in my neck while practising before the toss. I was a bit worried, but he told me that it’s nothing serious, so I was happy on this performance,” said Abbas, who said he didn’t let the flat tracks in the UAE discourage him at any point.
“There are different conditions, different pitches, whatever you get you need to focus on your bowling. I mould myself according to that. I only look at the player I’m bowling to and then focus on my bowling,” said Abbas.
Asked if he feared fading away like a few of his predecessors who had also started off with great promise, the 28-year-old said: “Look, I have a belief in Allah and I pray that he keeps me away from tough situations. I have played first class cricket and a lot of things have happened before my eyes.
“I suffered hardship in my life, so my focus is on cricket and that has made me mature. I want to keep my feet on the ground, that has been my life and it has matured me.”
There is something indeed special about Abbas’s bowling and it is certainly not about being fast alone. He manages to get these lifeless wickets to react by hitting the seam — while also getting some movement in the air.
Shaun Marsh, on three, was the first to depart after Abbas drew him for a forward defence and the angle of the delivery did enough to take the edge and Haris Sohail took a good low catch at slips.
Then going around the wicket, Abbas unleashed another beauty and Travis Head was walking back distraught after the edge flew into Asad Shafiq at second slip. Aussies were now clearly in trouble having been reduced to 57 for four.
With Yasir Shah then removing Mitchell Marsh caught by Shafiq at slips and Bilal Asif getting rid of a well set Aaron Finch for 39, Aussies were staring down the barrel. Any chance of revival was further dented as just at the stroke of lunch, Australian skipper Tim Paine was given out leg before to Bilal on umpire’s decision. A bit unlucky as the ball was just clipping the leg stump and Australia’s scorecard painted a sorry picture — 91 for four, still trailing by 191 runs.