Spinners shine on Pakistan’s day

Pakistan took firm control of proceedings in Dubai as Australia’s batsmen failed to offer adequate support to David Warner on the second afternoon of the first Test.

Warner’s ebullient 133, his third century in consecutive innings, was the only Australian occupation of sustained influence. Michael Clarke’s team slipped to 303 all out and a substantial first-innings deficit on a pitch offering spin and reverse swing to Pakistan’s inexperienced but nicely varied attack.

Rahat Ali, Zulfiqar Babar and Yasir Shah all delivered quality spells, with Rahat finding reverse swing to dismiss Rogers and becalm Doolan, while Babar varied his flight and spin in a way Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe could not, on the way to deceiving a hesitant Clarke and the debutant Mitchell Marsh.

Yasir struck pivotally on either side of lunch, coaxing Steve Smith into an airy cut just when he appeared to be set, then bowling Warner when the opener misread the degree of turn. Brad Haddin tried to muscle the second new ball but dragged Imran Khan onto the stumps, and Marsh was reprieved by a successful review when given out caught behind off Rahat – his bat had brushed pad rather than ball.

Misbah-ul-Haq began the day with Rahat and Hafeez in tandem, and Rogers was soon troubled by the old ball moving through the air and lower bounce than he preferred. Shaping to cut Rahat, he was cramped by a delivery angling back at him, and dragged it onto the stumps.

Doolan’s innings was strangely diffident, recalling his statuesque innings in similarly dry, slow and reversing conditions against South Africa in Port Elizabeth earlier in the year. Unable to puncture a ring field or rotate the strike, he fretted over five runs and 34 balls before chancing a single from a ball struck firmly to mid-on and was found short when Rahat aimed unerringly.

Clarke’s hands were firm and his footwork uncertain, with his brief stay ending when he squeezed Babar to short leg. And while Smith looked almost as comfortable as Warner in a stand of 48, he fell prey to mental error by slicing Yasir to backward point. Smith leaned angrily on his bat when the catch was taken, and the importance of his wicket was emphasised in the first over of the afternoon.

Yasir deceived Warner with a quicker delivery angled in from around the wicket, earning the Twittersphere praise of Shane Warne in the process. Haddin and Marsh briefly hinted at a pivotal stand when the wicketkeeper lofted Yasir into the stands, but Imran and Rahat both moved the second new ball enough to cause misjudgments.

Haddin’s edge onto the stumps went someway to levelling up his liberal allocation of good fortune during last summer’s Ashes. Marsh used his long reach to play the spinners with composure, but played around a straight delivery from Babar to fall lbw on review, causing his father Geoff to angrily motion a forward defensive in the stands.

Peter Siddle, oddly sent in to bat ahead of the more accomplished batsman O’Keefe, was soon lbw to Hafeez. Mitchell Johnson and O’Keefe scrounged 32, but Johnson succumbed to a hook, and when the spinner skied a slog at Yasir, Australia had fallen a third short. Pakistan’s path towards victory is broadening, while Australia’s is narrow and arduous.

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