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PAK v AUS 2nd Test, Day 1: Usman Khawaja’s Ton Puts Australia in Strong Position against Pakistan

Usman Khawaja’s unbeaten century (127) and Steve Smith’s fifty (72) put Australia in a strong position against Pakistan on the opening day of the second Test of the three-match series, here on Saturday.

Australia went to stumps on 251/3 on Day 1, with Usman Khawaja and night-watchman Nathan Lyon (0) unbeaten at the crease.

Pat Cummins-led Australia won the toss in Karachi and opted to bat first. David Warner and Usman Khawaja, after surviving the tough opening spell from Pakistan pacers, dominated with the bat, as they made full use of the fresh pitch in the first half of the opening session.

Shaheen Shah Afridi started brilliantly against the two left-handers, occasionally asking them questions with his swinging full-length deliveries. Alongside Shaheen in the opening spell, Hasan Ali, who made his comeback into the Pakistan XI, was very accurate and troubled the batters with his tight outside off-stump line. Warner, who got off to a shaky start, survived two close leg-before-wicket calls off Hasan but looked in sublime form after that.

With two left-handers at the crease, spin was deployed early by Pakistan. However, Warner and Khawaja’s aggressive response to Sajid Khan’s bowling highlighted the openers’ approach. In Sajid’s very first over, Warner danced down the track and smashed him for a six over long-off, bringing up the half-century opening partnership.

The openers continued to stay firm in the middle, as Khawaja also danced down the track to hit a six off Sajid in the 17th over, followed by another six from Warner in the same over. It looked like Khawaja and Warner would race to a century opening stand before Faheem Ashraf broke through to end the stand on 82. Operating around the wicket, Ashraf managed to get a nick off Warner’s bat straight into the hands of wicketkeeper Rizwan, dismissing him on 36.

Shortly after losing his opening partner, Khawaja completed his second consecutive half-century of the series with a boundary down to the third man. Labuschagne, though, was unlucky to return to the pavilion for a duck. Trying to get off the mark, Labuschagne attempted a risky single but a direct hit from Sajid found him short at the non-striker’s end, an ICC report said.

Khawaja and Steve Smith then ensured that Australia didn’t lose any more wickets and took the visitors to 100/2 at lunch.

After the break, Khawaja and Smith continued their strong batting show as the hosts failed to take any wickets in the second session of the day. The southpaw played some exquisite drives as he closed in on his century while Smith batted patiently throughout the second session.

Bowling tight lines and lengths, Shaheen and Ashraf didn’t allow the batters to score freely, keeping the run rate under control throughout the session. Nauman Ali extracted some spin and bounce off the surface but both the Aussies batted sensibly and went to tea at 172/2.

The batters brought up their century partnership in the final session of the day. Meanwhile, Smith’s return to form saw him score his 35th Test fifty. His innings allowed Khawaja to take his time during the nervous nineties. Having missed out on a ton in Rawalpindi, Khawaja approached his century carefully and soon brought up his 11th Test century with a single towards square leg.

The new ball didn’t really make much difference as Smith and Khawaja continued to keep the scoreboard ticking. However, the introduction of Hasan got Pakistan the breakthrough they needed, with Ashraf at slips taking a brilliant one-handed catch to send Smith packing for 72.

Pakistan could have taken the wicket of Khawaja off the last ball of the day had Imam-ul-Haq not dropped the catch at forward short leg.

Brief scores: Australia 251/3 (Usman Khawaja 127 not out, Steve Smith 72; Hasan Ali 1-31, Faheem Ashraf 1-32) vs Pakistan

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