Lunch Pakistan 77 for 5 (Fakhar 49*, Sarfraz 5*, Lyon 4-12) v Australia
No one really has a clue how a Test in the UAE goes. “Slow burners” seemed to be the conclusion last week. Win the toss, bat first, put up a big score, and dominate.
Nathan Lyon made a mockery of that formula this morning, shredding his way through Pakistan’s middle order to turn conventional wisdom on its head. Just after Pakistan had recovered from the loss of an early wicket and begun to put on a partnership that would reset them on course came a spell any grand old Asian spinmaster would remember in the rocking chair decades on.
Spread across two overs, he took four wickets in six balls as Pakistan tumbled from the relative affluence of 57 for one to the penury of 57 for five within 10 minutes. It didn’t only tear up the narrative of the opening session, it may yet be the defining period of this Test series.
For a man who had averaged almost 85 in the UAE previously, there was no foreshadowing what he was about to produce. The second-wicket partnership had accumulated 52 hard-fought runs, and would have been looking at going in one down and carrying on from there. But Azhar Ali, struggling for form of late, chose unwisely to attack Lyon by charging down the wicket, only to scoop the ball straight into the bowler’s hands.
That opened the floodgates. Haris Sohail couldn’t keep the first ball he faced down and Travis Head at silly point caught sharply. An over later, Lyon struck two more bruising blows to the solar plexus of the batting order, sending Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam on their way.
Babar’s dismissal could most-kindly be described as a brain-freeze, with the youngster charging down the track off just his second delivery, hopelessly beaten by both flight and turn. Had the ball not clattered into his stumps, Tim Paine would have had a simple stumping to effect.
It all poured water on Fakhar Zaman’s solid innings on debut. He was somehow still unbeaten on 49 as Pakistan took lunch. He was put down a few minutes before Lyon ran riot by Labuschagne at short midwicket. It was a simple catch, really, expected to be taken of a man who had grasped a stunner within the first three overs of the match. It accounted for Mohammad Hafeez, with the ball first thudding into short leg’s groin. Labuschagne managed to keep his wits about him and the ball off the ground, getting Australia off to the perfect start.
It might have been the highlight of the session, but Lyon’s titanic late contribution meant it would barely register as a footnote.