AUS v PAK 1st Test, Day 4 Review: Asad Shafiq’s century keep the Australians at bay

Asad Shafiq of Pakistan
Asad Shafiq of Pakistan celebrates scoring a century. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

After putting up below par performances in the first three days of the opening test at the Gabba, Pakistan finally came onto their own and staged a dramatic fightback to take the game to the 5th day. It was a monumental effort from the lower order of Pakistan, especially Mohammad Amir. Younis Khan and Azhar Ali both scored half centuries before departing in quick succession. Asad Shafiq scored a brilliant century and shared a crucial 92 run stand with Mohammad Amir for the 7th wicket to keep the hosts at bay. Wahab Riaz struck some lusty blows towards the end of the day before getting dismissed in the last over of the day. The visitors finished the day’s play at 382/8.

Beginning the day at 70/2, Pakistan batted pretty sensibly in the first session. Overnight batsman Azhar Ali began with a cautious approach and played out a maiden of Josh Hazlewood in the first over of the day. Younis Khan who had a horrendous run in Test cricket coming into the innings, at last, managed to get off the mark in the next over of Mitchell Starc after surviving for 19 deliveries last night without bothering the scorers.  Despite getting off the mark and striking two boundaries Younis looked totally out of sorts and found it very difficult to negate the pace and swing of the Australian pacers.

Azhar Ali looked calm and composed at the crease and despite few edges here and there he was on top of the Australian bowling. One Hazlewood bouncer struck him on the helmet but he was quick to get up and give a smile before the physio came out for a mandatory checkup. In the company of Azhar, Younis too started growing in confidence and struck some delightful boundaries. Azhar was patient in his approach but that was the order of the day. He batted pretty sensibly as Younis slowly started to up the anti. Both batsmen batted out the majority of the 1st session before rain suspended play and early lunch was taken. The rain became heavy with each passing minute that forced the delay of the 2nd session. Eventually, the rain relented and the match began an hour and 10 minutes later.

Azhar Ali who had batted superbly in the innings so far fell to Mitchell while attempting a leg glance. The ball took the face of the bat and was gleefully accepted by Matthew Wade behind the stumps. It was really unlucky on his part as he deserved a century after playing so well. Captain Misbah-ul-Haq joined Younis Khan in the middle. Younis played a beautiful stroke of Mitchell Starc towards the square of the wicket but lost his partner Misbah-ul-Haq after a 20 runs stand for the 4th wicket. Jackson Bird bowled a back of a length delivery outside the off stump as Misbah offered a loose prod without the intention of scoring. The ball took the outside edge and was pouched by Wade behind the stumps.

Asad Shafiq came into the crease at the fall of Misbah’s wicket but before he could get his eye in his compatriot Younis Khan played an irresponsible shot and surrendered his wicket at a crucial juncture of the game. Nathan Lyon who was bowling very well, at last, got his reward when the veteran batsman went for an uncharacteristic reverse sweep. The ball took the outside half of the bat and ballooned straight into the air and was gleefully accepted by Steve Smith standing in the first slip.

It looked like an uphill task for Pakistan from thereon but Asad Shafiq had different ideas. Along with Sarfaraz Ahmed, the duo started taking on the opposition bowling. Sarfaraz played some delightful drives during his short stay at the crease before eventually falling for 24. It was a perfectly executed full pitched delivery by Starc which moved back in and castled the timber. Sarfaraz was struggling throughout the over before falling to the unplayable delivery.

With 6 wickets down, Pakistan was looking down the barrel in pursuit of an improbable victory target of 490. However Asad Shafiq remained optimistic and along with left-arm quick Mohammad Amir, the pair slowly started rebuilding the innings. Bothy the batsmen started playing attacking cricket and took the challenge by the scruff of their neck. Amir survived a few close shaves but gradually grew in stature and put on a brilliant partnership with Shafiq for the 7th wicket.

Shafiq played some delightful strokes and relied on his cuts and drives to fetch him maximum results. He also ensured Amir didn’t lose his cool and went up to him several times to settle down his nerves. Amir eventually fell after scoring a well-made 48. Jackson Bird bowled a beautiful off-cutter which deviated from the pitch and took the outside edge. The Australians were relieved at the fall of Amir’s wicket as the 7th wicket stand fetched 92 runs.

Wahab Riaz joined Shafique in the middle. Both looked aggressive but Wahab, in particular, struck some lusty blows of Nathan Lyon to bring down the deficit. Shafiq, on the other hand, continued his long vigil and reached his 10th Test century of his career. It was a stupendous effort from the young man keeping in mind the scenario he came into bat. He struck 10 fours and a solitary six during his outstanding innings.

Wahab fell in the last over of the day to Jackson Bird as Steve Smith held onto a good catch at the first slip after dropping two sitters at the same position. Pakistan eventually ended the day’s play at 382/8, still needing 108 more to win.

Brief Scores:

Australia 1st innings: 429 (S Smith 130, P Handscomb 105; W Riaz 4/89)

Pakistan 1st innings: 142 all out (S Ahmed 59*; J Hazlewood 3/22)

Australia 2nd innings: 203/5 dec (Usman Khawaja 74; Rahat Ali 2/40)

Pakistan 2nd innings: 382/8 (Asad Shafiq 100*, Jackson Bird 3/94)

Pakistan needs 108 more runs to win.