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Aussie bats lean on calm Khawaja

Test opener has silenced his doubters as Australia's best player against spin in Dubai

The idea of Usman Khawaja handing out advice on how to bat in Asia may have once raised eyebrows but the left-hander has proven to be Australia's shining light in the UAE.

Australia's slim hopes of salvaging a draw on day five of the first Test against Pakistan rest heavily with Khawaja, who will resume on 50 alongside debutant Travis Head (34no) with the tourists trailing by 326 runs at 3-136.

Concerns about Khawaja's poor record on turning tracks meant he was overlooked during last year's Test series in India and dropped after one Test in Bangladesh.

But the Queensland opener top-scored with 85 in the first innings in Dubai and he again dug in grimly in the second dig, surviving a collapse in which Aaron Finch, Shaun Marsh and Mitch Marsh all fell without Australia adding to their score.

Khawaja used the reverse sweep to great effect // Getty
Khawaja used the reverse sweep to great effect // Getty

With Australia's batsmen preaching the need to bat for time, Khawaja endured 175 balls in the calamitous first innings and has faced 120 in the second.

The 31-year-old's changing fortunes are best exemplified by the guidance he provided after Australia lost 10-60 on day three.

Australia's left-handed batsmen - Khawaja, Head, Shaun Marsh and 12th man Matthew Renshaw - convened with coach Justin Langer in the middle of Dubai International Cricket Stadium after play.

The post-day batters meeting out in the middle // Getty
The post-day batters meeting out in the middle // Getty

Head revealed Khawaja had provided advice on how best to handle the conditions after off-spinner Bilal Asif ran through the left-handers.

"We just spoke with Uz," Head said.

"He played beautifully, and it was a lot about realising the work we've done over the last month - backing our plans, backing the way we've been playing.

"We've been playing and training extremely well. It was just to go out there, stay nice and relaxed, have a look at the wicket and talk about a few ideas and strategies Usman employed.

"Different guys have got different ways of going about it. So it was about staying calm, enjoying the challenge ... being brave and backing your ability."

The pep-talk appeared to pay dividends for Head, who was caught at slip to Bilal for a duck in the first innings but looked far more settled in the second.

"I didn't play to my strengths yesterday," the South Australian said.

"I was probably a little bit too defensive. I've worked extremely hard on my forward defence and I was very eager to get out there and grind it out.

"But if the ball is there to be hit, you hit it. That's what I got taught and that's how I play my best."

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