Recent Match Report – Australia vs Pakistan 1st Test 2023/24

Pakistan 132 for 2 (Shafique 42, Imam 38*) trail Australia 487 (Warner 164, Marsh 90, Jamal 6-111) by 355 runs

New captain Shan Masood batted positively but fell late on day two to dent Pakistan’s rearguard as Australia remained in control of the first Test at Optus Stadium.

Pakistan lost opener Abdullah Shafique and Masood in the final session and still face an uphill battle in avoiding a 15th straight Test defeat in Australia.

After spending 113.2 overs in the field, Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq had withstood torrid bowling from Australia’s pace attack with a 74-run slow burn of a partnership.

Masood had promised a continuation of Pakistan’s proactive batting approach from their successful tour of Sri Lanka in July. But Shafique and Imam were watchful through 20 overs in the second session as they effectively blunted Australia’s accurate pace bowlers.

Left-arm quick Mitchell Starc immediately nudged 145kph in a speed considerably higher than any Pakistan paceman. Pacemen Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, whose first seven overs cost just four runs, were relentless in targeting a dangerous short of a length.

While Imam, who made just two runs off his first 31 deliveries faced, entirely focused on stonewalling, Shafique looked impressive technically as he presented a straight bat in defence. Unlike Imam, he was able to make the scoreboard tick over with the occasional elegant boundary.

He was engaged in a cagey battle with returning offspinner Nathan Lyon, who almost removed Shafique with his second delivery after an edge flew past Steve Smith at slip. Shafique countered by using his feet superbly to whack Lyon down the ground for a boundary.

But Lyon had the last laugh when he had Shafique miscuing to leg slip where David Warner held onto a fine catch. In his comeback from a calf injury that cut short his Ashes campaign, Lyon is now just three away from 500 Test wickets. After coming on in the 10th over, he conjured spin and bounce to finish with 1 for 40 from 13 overs.

Masood took it upon himself to lead from the front and play aggressively as he smashed Lyon for a boundary on his second delivery faced. He soon after hit a gorgeous boundary off Hazlewood to race to 19 off 13 balls.

Masood quickly caught up to Imam, but he fell on 30 just 10 minutes before stumps when he was caught behind off Starc in a decision overturned on review.

Khurram Shahzad survived through to stumps as the nightwatchman with Imam finishing on 38 from 136 balls.

Masood’s wicket dented Pakistan’s fightback after a forgettable performance in the field. They lacked discipline with the ball and fielded raggedly as Australia batted at over four runs an over to post a formidable first innings total of 487.

Australia’s innings was dominated by Warner’s 164 on the opening day as he launched his Test cricket swansong in style. After starting day two on 346 for 5, Australia’s position strengthened through allrounder Mitchell Marsh‘s 90 off 107 balls.

Marsh took charge in the first session and relished playing his first Test match at Optus Stadium having dominated on his home ground for Perth Scorchers in the BBL. He also justified the faith of selectors who stuck with him over Western Australia team-mate Cameron Green.

Having been watchful early against the second new ball, Marsh unfurled his muscular batting with powerful strokes around the wicket as he raced to his half-century off 66 balls.

He took a liking to innocuous short-pitched deliveries that were being served up by an uninspiring Pakistan attack. Pakistan’s goal of bowling Australia out an hour into the day’s play quickly eroded with spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi unable to consistently threaten with the second new ball.

Debutant seamer Shahzad could not replicate his energetic performance from day one where he hit the mid-130kph mark. He bowled considerably slower at the start of day two and his pedestrian pace was easily handled by Marsh.

Marsh eyed a century before lunch as he launched debutant quick Aamer Jamal for six over midwicket. But Jamal countered by reverting to a short-pitched tactic with fielders spread out on the boundary. Marsh resisted the bait through to lunch and was made to wait for his century.

But it never eventuated with Marsh falling short of his fourth Test ton after being clean bowled by Shahzad on the first ball after the resumption. Jamal ripped through the tail to finish with 6 for 111 from 20.2 overs in the sixth-best figures for a Pakistan player on debut.

Jamal sparked a fightback for Pakistan, whose sedate approach with the bat left a crowd of 17,666 fans often inventing ways to keep entertained in the terraces. But the late wickets of Shafique and Masood had Australia firmly on top.

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth

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