Pakistan v Australia Test - Men's
Hafeez, Pakistan dominate day one
Veteran opener marks Test return with a century as Australia claw their way back
Louis Cameron at Dubai International Cricket Stadium
8 October 2018, 02:36 AM AEST
A gritty final-session bowling display helped Australia bounce back from four wicketless hours in their return to Test cricket, as a comeback century from Mohammad Hafeez highlighted a dour opening day of the series.
On a docile Dubai pitch baking in intense desert heat, Australia hit back with three late wickets after managing none through the first two sessions as openers Hafeez (126 off 208 balls) and Imam-ul-Haq (76 off 188 balls) put on 205 for the first wicket.
The Australians’ persistence was rewarded as Nathan Lyon (1-63), Peter Siddle (1-23) and Jon Holland (1-72) made much-needed incisions after the tea break.
It was a triumphant reappearance at this level for Hafeez, who marked his first Test innings after a two-year exile with a 172-ball hundred. The 37-year-old's contribution, remarkably, comes after originally being left out of Pakistan's 17-man squad for the two-Test series before his late call-up.
The visitors’ spirit in sweltering conditions was rewarded with the scalps of the two openers while Holland returned from some early struggles to grab the prized wicket of Azhar Ali (18 off 80 balls) as the Australians turned the screws to concede just 56 runs in the final session of the day.
Pakistan went to stumps at 3-255 with Haris Sohail (15 not out) and nightwatchman Mohammad Abbas (one not out) unbeaten.
There were emotional scenes on Sunday morning as a trio of debutants received their Baggy Greens from two former Australian greats and one current one – Allan Border first presented Aaron Finch with his cap, Nathan Lyon followed with Travis Head's before Mike Hussey finished off with Marnus Labuschagne.
But after the cheer of the morning's festivities, Australia were brought sharply back to earth as Hafeez and Imam put on 89 runs without loss in the first session after captain Tim Paine lost the toss to counterpart Sarfraz Ahmed.
Mitchell Starc was hostile with the new ball, hitting Hafeez in the helmet as Siddle bowled six straight overs in his opening spell – no mean feat in temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius.
Lyon was introduced early on and duly sent down four straight maidens but Pakistan's opening pair rarely looked troubled.
Holland found the going a little tougher than his spin twin early on, with Hafeez dragging a full toss in his first over to the leg-side for four before Imam skipped down the track and pasted him for six over mid-wicket.
Holland's initial six-over burst cost Australia 32 runs, with Imam and Hafeez clearly targeting the left-arm spinner in his first Test since August 2016 in much the same way their side had done with Lyon four years ago on Australia's last Test tour to the UAE.
Hafeez brought up a 98-ball half-century after lunch as Imam brought up the team 100 by advancing to Lyon and pasting him back over his head.
Having carefully balanced attack with defence through the opening session, Hafeez looked increasingly brazen after the break and Australia were left to rue the only real chance he gave before reaching triple-digits.
On 74, the right-hander smeared Holland high over long off but while Mitch Marsh made good ground to get his fingertips to the ball, he couldn't hang on to what would have been a spectacular grab.
It was the kind of opportunity Australia desperately needed to cling onto as their partnership extended past 150. A reverse-swinging spell from an indefatigable Starc was rewarded only with a trio of outside-edged boundaries from Hafeez, one going through the first slip position Finch had only just vacated.
The Aussies' cruel luck was Hafeez's gain, who stormed to a 172-ball century, earning an embrace from Imam before dropping to his haunches to acknowledge his first Test ton since November 2015.
Imam meanwhile was thoroughly untroubled by most of what was thrown his way, including a brief spell from Labuschagne, and he made a point of his dominance by blocking back the first five balls of Holland's final over before tea before audaciously smashing him for six over long-on on the sixth to extract applause from the small Pakistani crowd contingent.
The left-hander's first real mistake came after the final break as Lyon, finally, broke through with Imam edging behind to Paine.
Through Siddle, the Aussies eventually found some meaningful reverse swing and the veteran quick was rewarded with the scalp of Hafeez when he tailed one back into his pads to trap him lbw.
Siddle's inspired five-over burst that yielded just a single run allowed Lyon and Starc to continue to attack, though Azhar and Sohail showed few signs of aggression, a lofted straight boundary from the former a rare exception.
The Aussies conceded just 12 runs in 14 overs up until the 80-over mark, but Australia were content to not take the second new ball, a decision validated as Azhar hit out against Holland in frustration but miscued to Starc, who took a good catch tumbling forward at mid-off.
Starc then collapsed with cramp in his follow-through in his penultimate over of the day, bravely managing to limp through another over as he took swigs of pickle juice between balls to cap off a spirited first-up display from the tourists.
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