Khawaja heroics steer Australia to a draw in Dubai

Khawaja heroics steer Australia to a draw in Dubai
Wicketkeeper-captain Tim Paine helped steer Australia to a famous draw. Photo: Naparazzi, Wikimedia Commons

After yet another embarrassing collapse in the first innings Usman Khawaja has steered Australia to an unlikely draw in the first test against Pakistan. Khawaja was assisted with handy and gritty appearances by debutants Aaron Finch and Travis Head, as well as skipper Tim Paine, in a display that saw Australia bat for 140 overs to save the match.

The final innings started promisingly for Australia, with Khawaja and Finch combining for a second strong opening partnership. After Finch was dismissed on 49, however, it looked like the second innings would go the same way as the first as the Marsh brothers, who were theoretically the batsmen best equipped to handle the conditions and Pakistani bowling, both went for ducks.

Head overcame his first innings jitters, however, to tough out 72 runs off 175 balls in a mammoth partnership with Khawaja to keep Australia in the hunt for a draw. After Head fell his fellow debutante Marnus Labuschagne only made 13, but was dismissed by an excellent ball from Yasir Shah.

Tim Paine then combined with Khawaja for an excellent captains knock that would have the story be all about him, except for Khawaja’s heroics. Paine would bat out the rest of the test, with his 61 runs much less important than the 194 balls he faced to protect the Australian tail. Khawaja eventually went for 141 off 302 balls – the highest ever fourth innings score in Asia.

After the man of the hour was dismissed Paine dug in to protect his bowlers, absorbing plenty of pressure and keeping himself on strike as much as possible. Mitch Starc and Peter Siddle fell cheaply, but Nathan Lyon managed to stay in for the 34 balls he needed to face to see out the match and help Australia claim an admirable draw.

Khawaja, Finch, Head and Paine have shown that the cupboard of Australian batsmen is not quite bare, despite the ball tampering suspensions given to Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, and Matt Renshaw’s concussion. The failure of the Marsh brothers in the crucial positions of first and second drop, however, will only increase the calls to bring Glenn Maxwell into the side – especially when another one-day specialist in Aaron Finch has played so well.