Australia’s new era began in nail-biting fashion, with two senior players standing up when the country needed them most. Usman Khawaja’s defiant century, his first in Asia, allowed Australia to be in a position to fight into the final overs. While Tim Paine’s grit as captain - he hit fifty but barely celebrated - exemplified the battling spirit of Baggy Green.
Khawaja silenced critics about his ability to bat in Asia, but fell to the leg-spin of Yasir Shah with 15 overs remaining. It was an epic knock, but in the context of the situation Khawaja had exited, the opener could barely raise his eyes from the turf to salute the applause from teammates, family and the handful of Australian supporters in the stands.
What happened next would have only deepend his disconsolation, as Australia lost Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle in quick succession in Yasir’s next over.
Khawaja was on the field for some 27 hours of this Test, either in the field or at the crease, and Australia’s hopes seemed to hinge on his ability to bat through the final session on a wearing pitch against a world-class bowling attack.
Khawaja’s century was his first in Asia, and just his second overseas, and has lead Australia’s gritty resistance on the fifth and final day of an absorbing Test match in Dubai. Khawaja reached his ton from 224 balls, with 10 boundaries. He leapt into the air with a fist pump of delight while wife Rachel shed tears of pride, joy and relief in the stands.
Pakistan was forced to wait until after lunch, but struck immediately after the interval for the first wicket of the fifth day having been kept at bay for 29 overs by the obdurate Australians.
Mohammad Hafeez struck with the first delivery of the second new ball to trap Travis Head plumb in front, the ball hitting the back knee roll, after Head played for turn that was non-existant. Head’s exit for a well-made 72 from 175 balls brought Marnus Labuschagne to the crease, and left Australia 4-219, and needing to survive another 59 overs on the fifth day.
Head and Usman Khawaja rode their luck to keep Pakistan’s bowlers at bay throughout the fifth morning as a frustrated Pakistan side went wicketless.
Brief scores: Pakistan 482 and 181/6 decl; Australia 202 and 362/8 (Usman Khawaja 141, Tim Paine 61 not out, Travis Head 72, Yasir Shah 4/114)