The script was very familiar to the first innings, as many had predicted. Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja batted well, as they did earlier in this Test match. Finch was then dismissed by Mohammad Abbas, something that happened in the first innings as well. And as if in a replay, the collapse unfolded once again. The score didn’t budge from 87 as Australia lost two more wickets to almost throw in the towel.
Had it not been for a resolute Khawaja and Travis Head, Australia might have been 1-0 down in the series already. The scoreline is still the likeliest result but the left-handed duo’s dogged resistance has at least given the visitors a tiny lifeline heading into the final day. At stumps, Australia were 136 for 3 in Dubai, still needing another 326 runs to take an unlikely lead in the series.
Having begun promisingly once again, Australia ideally would have liked Finch and Khawaja to carry on as long as possible. But six overs into the final session on Day 4, Pakistan struck with Abbas trapping Finch plumb in front as the ball tailed back into the batsman. A desperate Finch ended up wasting a review on his way back.
Two balls later, it was Shaun Marsh’s turn to take a long walk back to the pavilion as Abbas came around the wicket and slightly took the ball away from the batsman to take the outside edge. From 87 for no loss, it was suddenly 87 for 2. Already rattled, Australia were struck another massive blow just ten balls later as Abbas struck again, and this time, he had to give his skipper some credit for taking a brave review.
Bowled full, it appeared as if Mitchell Marsh had inside edged the ball onto his pad, which prompted the umpire to shake his head following the appeal. But Sarfraz Ahmed took a chance with the review and to Pakistan’s delight, it was confirmed that the ball had indeed hit the pad first before making contact with the bat, sending Marsh on his way back.
An enthusiastic Pakistan then wasted a review in the very next over following another lbw appeal, this time against Head. With an hour left for play to get over, a reverse-swinging ball and a turning track to contend with, both Head and Khawaja clearly had their hands full. The duo batted with caution, using their feet in expert fashion to counter Bilal Asif’s threat as the opener brought up his second fifty of the game.
Khawaja did have a couple of nervy moments when he top-edged one that fell in no man’s land followed by a tough chance that was grassed at slip but Australia needed that bit of luck to survive through the day.
And they need more of it to avoid a result that looks very likely.
Brief scores: Australia 202 & 136/3 (Usman Khawaja 50*, Aaron Finch 49; Mohammad Abbas 3-26) need another 326 runs to win vs Pakistan 482 & 181/6d (Imam-ul-Haq 48, Haris Sohail 39; Jon Holland 3-83).