Khawaja, Warner, Labuschagne lead strong Australia reply

ISLAMABAD,(Reuters) – Usman Khawaja fell agonisingly short of a hundred but Australia’s top order powered them to 271 for two in reply to Pakistan’s total of 476 for four declared on day three of the opening test yesterday.

David Warner made 68 and Marnus Labuschagne was on 69 when bad light followed by rain stopped play with Australia’s top three posting half-centuries in the bat-dominated contest.

Steve Smith will also be hopeful of converting the start he got into a big knock when he resumes on 24 today.

“Tomorrow is another big day for us,” Khawaja told reporters.

David Warner

“If we can bat well, keep scoring runs and give ourselves the opportunity, maybe (Australia can force a result).”

“We are 200 runs behind, there’s a long way to go.”

Australia, on their first tour of Pakistan in 24 years, finished day three 205 behind but scored freely after resuming on five for no loss.

Khawaja, who made 97, could have been dismissed on 22 when Shaheen Afridi got the opener to drive away from his body but Fawad Alam spilled a straightforward catch at gully.

It was a costly mistake on a flat track on which bowlers have struggled and only four wickets fell in the first two days.

The morning session also witnessed a little duel between Warner and Naseem Shah.

Warner hit the fast bowler for two boundaries in an over and Naseem responded by bowling into the opener’s body in his next.

Warner suffered a blow to his upper arm but laughed it off when Naseem gave him a stare and a piece of his mind.

Khawaja played a spectacular upper-cut against Naseem and took two runs off spinner Sajid Khan to bring up a breezy half-century.

Warner welcomed off-spinner Iftikhar Ahmed into the attack by hitting him for three boundaries, the first bringing up his fifty.

The left-hander, who hit 12 boundaries, had his middle stump pegged back as he went on the back foot to play Sajid through the off-side and misjudged the line.

Islamabad-born Khawaja missed out on what could have been his third test hundred in five innings after fluffing a reverse sweep which otherwise had been a productive shot for the left-hander.

Umpire Aleem Dar had initially ruled the batsman not out but reversed the decision after replays confirmed the ball from Nauman Ali hit Khawaja’s gloves before popping up to Imam-ul-Haq at forward short leg.

Labuschagne hit nine boundaries in his fluent unbeaten knock.

“We will try to make the new ball count tomorrow,” Sajid told reporters.

“We’ll have to try and break this partnership between Labuschagne and Smith as quick as possible and press for early wickets. The wicket is offering enough turn and we are hopeful of a positive result.”


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