Mitchell Starc’s four-fer helped Australia bundle Pakistan out for 240 on Day One of the Brisbane Test, despite a good start from the visitors, who did not lose a single wicket in the first session.
The first hour of the Test belonged to Pakistan as openers Shan Masood and skipper Azhar Ali, played with great patience. Australia had used up all their four frontline bowlers, but struggled to get a breakthrough. The Pakistani openers did not play any rash strokes and played each ball according to its merit, but to Australia’s credit, they did not get bogged down or frustrated and kept believing that the first wicket was just around the corner.
They were a tad short and bowled wide of off for their liking, which as a result did not translate to any wickets. The frustration continued for Australia as they went into lunch wicketless. Pakistan on the other hand not just put on 57 on the board, but became the first visiting team to not lose a wicket in the first session of Day One of a Test at Gabba since 2002. Azhar and Masood hit just five boundaries between them in the first session, but toiled hard to get their team off to a perfect start.
This was just their third 50-plus opening stand in Tests since 2018 and the platform was set to potentially turn this into a big one.
Pakistan dug deep again in the second session and so did Pat Cummins, who bowled with great aggression and accuracy. After Masood edged one between second slip and gully, Cummins found the outside edge once again a couple of deliveries later and this time it carried to Steve Smith at second slip to give the Aussies a much needed breakthrough. Azhar too fell two balls after Masood for 39 and this time it was Josh Hazlewood, who removed the Pakistan skipper for the third time in seven innings.
From 75 for no loss, Pakistan found themselves in trouble after they were reduced to 78 for 4 in the space of 39 balls. Following the openers’ dismissals, Haris Sohail and Babar Azam too perished, leaving a huge responsibility on the shoulders of Asad Shafiq, who was going to be key for Pakistan. Shafiq scored 137 the last time he played at this venue and Pakistan needed him to use every bit of his experience to get them out of this situation.
In the meantime, the visitors lost Iftikhar Ahmed for seven, with Nathan Lyon too getting into the act. They had lost half their side for just 94 and Australia, from being frustrated and kept at bay in the first session, found themselves in command at tea, thanks to excellent spells right at the beginning of the second session from Cummins and Hazlewood. Pakistan added 68 in the second session, but had lost five wickets and the chances of them getting bowled out on the opening day seemed high when they went into the break.
Mohammad Rizwan played some delightful strokes on his way to an eye-catching 34-ball 37, but his dismissal was controversial as no part of Cummins’ foot seemed to be behind the line and despite it being referred to the third umpire, Rizwan was adjudged caught behind. As a result of Rizwan’s quick-fire innings, Pakistan went from 101 to 150 in just 59 balls. Their first fifty came up off 155 balls, while they took 126 to reach the second fifty. This comes as little relief to a team, who were reeling on the first day of a Test.
Yasir Shah, fresh from a fifty in the warm-up game frustrated the Australians with his resilience, and played a vital role in the fifty partnership with Shafiq, who made his 24th fifty off 99 balls. Pakistan brought up their 200 in the 75th over, with Shafiq and Yasir well set.
The 84-run stand was broken by a pinpoint Yorker from Starc in the first over after taking the second new ball. He made it two in two after getting Shaheen Afridi caught behind first ball. 16-year-old debutant Naseem Shah survived the hat-trick delivery, but in the next over, Asad Shafiq was cleaned up by an in-swinger from Cummins for 76 and 13 runs later, Naseem was caught and bowled by Starc, bringing down the curtains on Pakistan’s innings at 240.
Starc finished with 4 for 52, which is the third instance he has picked up four wickets or more in the last five innings.
Earlier, Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat. They surprised many when they decided to exclude Mohammad Abbas, who has a career bowling average of less than 18 and a shade under 11 against Australia. Instead Pakistan went in with two teenagers – Shaheen Afridi and Naseem – with Imran Khan as the third seamer.
Pakistan 240 (Asad Shafiq 76, Azhar Ali 39; Mitchell Starc 4 for 52, Pat Cummins 3 for 60) vs Australia