Abbas heroics put Pakistan on brink of victory against Australia

Australia will resume their second innings on the final day at 136/3 - still 326 runs behind the 462 target

  

Australian hearts stopped for a moment when Usman Khawaja's attempted drive off part-time spinner Haris Sohail almost ended in the first slip's hand at the fag end of the day.

Of course, Khawaja's presence on the final day still doesn't raise hopes of an honourable draw for Australia. But the Pakistan-born left-hander, who became the first Muslim to play Test cricket for Australia, could still make the country of his origin wait a little bit longer to record a win that would erase the ghosts of the Asia Cup debacle.

For a man whose highest score in Asia was 26 coming into this first Test against Pakistan in Dubai, Khawaja was remarkable once again, scoring his second half-century of the match.

But the day belonged to the man who sparked Australia's latest collapse after getting rid of Khawaja's opening partner Aaron Finch.

After having played second fiddle to Asif Bilal in the first innings with four wickets, Mohammad Abbas (3/26) was a picture of brilliance on Wednesday.

Even when Finch (49, 99 balls, 5 fours) and Khawaja (50 not out, 120 balls, 6 fours) were trying their best to lift the Australian spirits on a deteriorating wicket, Abbas never stopped asking questions, never stopped attacking the stumps and never stopped surprising the batsmen with his ability to get reverse swing.

Just when it seemed Finch and Khawaja would put on another century opening partnership, Abbas incoming ball had Finch lbw.

Then in his next six balls, he got two more. First Shaun Marsh (0) nervously pushed at a ball that moved away with Sarfraz Ahmed taking a comfortable catch, then his brother Mitchell (0) had no answer to one that came in as Australia lost three wickets without adding to the score - 87.

Luckily for the Aussies, debutant Travis Head (34 not out, 75 balls, 4 fours), who had a first innings duck, survived an anxious 12-ball phase to avoid a pair before putting on 49 runs with Khawaja.

Thanks to their defiance, Australia will resume their second innings on the final day at 136/3 -- still 326 runs behind the 462 target set by Pakistan after the home team had declared their second innings at 181/6.

For Pakistan, it's now a matter of getting the last seven wickets. For Australia, Khawaja and Head would attempt to keep them at bay as long as they could.

"Partnerships. We need big partnerships," Head said at the press conference later when asked about his team's chances of pulling of a great escape.

"Our job tomorrow is Usman and myself to go out there and have a really good first hour, first half and hour. It's very important to have a really good start tomorrow and build the foundation for a very exciting day of cricket."

Pakistan showed how to build partnerships on this wicket after resuming their second innings at the overnight score of 45/3.

A 65-run fourth-wicket stand between Imam-ul Haq (48, 104 balls, 4 fours) and Haris Sohail (39, 81 balls, 2 fours, 2 six) and then a 71-run partnership between Asad Shafiq (41, 56 balls, 3 fours, 1 six) and Babar Azam (28 not out, 53 balls, 1 four, 1 six) frustrated the Australian team whose lower-middle order now have the unenviable task of surviving the last day against an inspired Abbas and first innings hero Asif.

UPHILL TASK
Pakistan 1st innings 482
Australia 1st innings 202
Pakistan 2nd innings
Imam-ul-Haq c & b Holland 48
M. Hafeez c Labuschagne b Holland 17
B. Asif c Head b Lyon 0
A. Ali lbw b Holland 4
H. Sohail lbw b Labuschagne 39
A. Shafiq c M. Marsh b Lyon 41
B. Azam not out 28
Extras: (b 2, lb 2) 4
Total: (for 6 wkts decl; 57.5 overs) 181
Fall: 1-37, 2-38, 3-45, 4-110, 5-110, 6-181
Bowling: Starc 6-1-18-0, Lyon 25.5-6-58-2, Siddle 2-1-3-0, Holland 20-3-83-3, Head 1-0-6-0, Labuschagne 3-0-9-1
Australia 2nd innings
A. Finch lbw b Abbas 49
Usman Khawaja not out 50
S. Marsh c Sarfraz b Abbas 0
M. Marsh lbw b Abbas 0
T. Head not out 34
Extras: (lb 3) 3
Total: (for 3 wkts; 50 overs) 136
Still to bat: M. Labuschagne, T. Paine, M. Starc, P. Siddle, N. Lyon, J. Holland
Fall: 1-87, 2-87, 3-87
Bowling: Abbas 11-2-26-3, Hafeez 2-0-10-0, Yasir 15-1-42-0, Riaz 7-2-13-0, Asif 13-3-40-0, Sohail 2-1-2-0

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