Pakistan v Australia Test - Men's
Khawaja, Head give Aussies a glimmer
Usman Khawaja hits second fifty of the Test but visitors must survive 90 overs on fifth day
Louis Cameron at Dubai International Cricket Stadium
11 October 2018, 10:36 AM AEST
Australia face a mammoth task to salvage a draw from the first Test in Dubai after Pakistan meticulously tightened their iron grip over the visitors on the game's fourth day.
With their chances of victory already shot, the Australians hung in with a credible bowling effort and some resolute batting either side of another batting collapse.
They ended the day trailing Pakistan by the exact same margin as they did at the start of it – 325 runs.
At 3-136 in the fourth innings of the match with one more day to play, Australia require an enormous effort from their batsmen after wildly inconsistent performances in this Test so far.
In scenes that initially seemed eerily similar to the previous day's when they effectively squandered the series-opener by losing 10-60, Australia again appeared headed to another frenzied collapse late on Wednesday
They lost 3-0 in a matter of minutes as paceman Mohammad Abbas (3-26 off 11 overs) tore a hole through Australia's top-order with debutant Aaron Finch (49) and brothers Shaun and Mitch Marsh (both ducks) all departing in a devastating reverse-swing spell.
Usman Khawaja (50 not out) continued his excellent game by bringing up his second half-century of the match, steadying the ship along with first-gamer Travis Head (33 not out) to get the Australians to stumps without further damage.
Despite the Dubai International Cricket Stadium's highest winning fourth-innings tally being only 137, the Aussies will be heartened by the fact the pitch is far from the kind of minefield day five surfaces in Asia can become.
The Aussies begun the fourth day a long way back in the Test and the momentum they'd got from a three-wicket consolation finish to the previous day was quickly handed straight back to their opponents.
Having collected two wickets on Tuesday evening, Jon Holland (3-83 from 20 overs) was denied another as Head put down a tumbling chance at mid-wicket.
With first-innings century maker Haris Sohail twice hitting Holland for straight sixes in return, the left-hander along with Imam ul-Haq completely took the air out of the game with some assured batting.
Australia's calamitous earlier collapse had been characterised by tentative new batsmen failing to strike up even the most modest of partnerships but, in contrast, when Sohail and Imam departed within five balls of one another, Pakistan did not crumble.
Holland got a deserved third wicket after deceiving Imam, who chipped a catch back to the bowler, before Marnus Labuschagne's eventful Test continued as the part-time leggie grabbed his second scalp of the game. He's still yet to score a run.
The Australians trudged back out into the heat after lunch but when Asad Shafiq (41) holed out to Mitch Marsh in the deep, Pakistan pulled the pin to give themselves the best part of five sessions to wrangle 10 wickets.
Finding a successful opening combination would have been among national selectors' top priority in picking their first Test side since the ill-fated South Africa ball tour and the new duo of Finch and Khawaja looked to have already built up a strong rapport.
Khawaja's previous highest Test score in Asia was 26 coming into this match and he's now surpassed that in both innings, following his 85 with another commanding knock in the second dig.
The left-hander continued his strategy of negating Yasir Shah, who remains wicketless in this Test, by liberally employing the reverse-sweep. Bilal Asif, who took 6-36 to mastermind Australia's first-innings downfall, failed to have the same impact with Finch hitting the off-spinner for a pair of boundaries before tea.
But in the space of seven deliveries from Abbas, Australia's relative comfort evaporated.
The right-armer got the initial breakthrough when Finch was trapped dead in front, before Shaun Marsh lasted just two balls before edging behind to Sarfraz Ahmed. His replacement Mitch Marsh was out in identical fashion to Finch the following over.
Australia had lost 3-0 and with it their tiny window of an all-time fourth-innings run chase had gone.
On a pair after his first-innings duck, there was surely no more relieved man in the UAE than Travis Head after scoring his first Test run.
Khawaja had a scare shortly before stumps when he edged Yasir to a diving Shafiq at first slip but he couldn't hold on, as he and Head weathered the storm and safely navigated their side to stumps without further loss.
Australia: Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Tim Paine (c & wk), Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon, Jon Holland
Pakistan: Imam-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk), Bilal Asif, Mohammad Abbas, Yasir Shah, Wahab Riaz
Qantas Tour of the UAE
Australia Test squad: Tim Paine (c), Ashton Agar, Brendan Doggett, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc
Pakistan Test squad: Sarfraz Ahmed (c), Azhar Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Usman Salahuddin, Yasir Shah, Shadab Khan, Bilal Asif, Mohammad Abbas, Hasan Ali, Wahab Riaz, Faheem Ashraf, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Hafeez
Sep 29 - Oct 2: Tour match v Pak A, Dubai
Oct 7-11: First Test, Dubai
Oct 16-20: Second Test, Abu Dhabi