Pakistani openers punish Australian bowlers in first Test
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Aussies might be one of the mightiest teams of the cricket world, but at Rawalpindi Stadium they were taught a punishing lesson by the Pakistani opening pair on Friday.
Imam-ul-Haq and Abdullah Shafique struck shots all around the ground as the star Australian bowling line-up looked helpless in the first session on the first day of the first cricket Test, the one being played between the two teams on Pakistani soil after 24 years.
Pakistan were 105 for the loss of one wicket at lunch with Imam hitting a masterly 57 studded with eight boundaries and a six while Shafique was out after scoring 44 runs with the help of three fours and a towering six. He was caught by Pat Cummins off the bowling of spinner Lyon.
Pakistan skipper Babar Azam after winning the toss said: "The pitch looks nice so we'll try to put runs on the board."
He said he thinks the spinners may come into play. "I'm also a spinner."
Pakistan 1 Abdullah Shafique, 2 Imam-ul-Haq, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Babar Azam (capt), 5 Fawad Alam, 6 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 7 Iftikhar Ahmed, 8 Nauman Ali, 9 Sajid Khan, 10 Naseem Shah, 11 Shaheen Shah Afridi
Australia 1 David Warner, 2 Usman Khawaja, 3 Marnus Labuschagne, 4 Steven Smith, 5 Travis Head, 6 Cameron Green, 7 Alex Carey (wk), 8 Pat Cummins (capt), 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Nathan Lyon, 11 Josh Hazlewood
Australia's arrival in Pakistan for their first Test tour of the country in 24 years has been billed as a momentous occasion for world cricket and it is certainly important. However, they are the sixth nation to tour since 2019 and the fourth to play Test cricket behind Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and South Africa.
It is perhaps just as significant that Australia have not played Tests overseas since mid-2019, due to the impact of Covid, prior to Pakistan's first home Test in a decade against Sri Lanka. Since then, Australia have had 14 Tests at home while Pakistan have only played five at home and 12 away.
Pakistan have won seven of their last eight Tests including two at home against South Africa early last year. Australia are coming off an Ashes series where they thumped England 4-0, with Sydney's rain the only thing preventing a whitewash.
Australia are at full strength but outside of Usman Khawaja, David Warner and Steven Smith, the rest of the batting group has very little first-class experience in Asia.
Pakistan are missing some key contributors from the side that was very successful in 2021 with Abid Ali still recovering from a heart problem, while Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf and Haris Rauf are all absent at least for the first Test.
Australia look stronger on paper but that could be neutralised in the conditions and with a very limited preparation. They only arriving in Pakistan at the start of the week and rain wiped out their last training session on Thursday.