As the biggest crowd of the series poured into Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq poured Pakistani runs into Australia’s open wound. A first series victory for Pakistan against their Antipodean opponents since 1994 would now appear only three days away.
A wonderful Friday assembly was regaled by Younis’ 213 and Misbah’s 101, the well-travelled pair enjoying utter domination of Australia’s bowlers, who did not gain a wicket until Pakistan’s captain bunted a return catch to Steven Smith.
Misbah declared 45 minutes before stumps, and Chris Rogers’ exit to perhaps the best ball bowled in the match so far – a perfectly-pitched away cutter from Imran Khan – completed Pakistan’s perfect day. The contrast with Michael Clarke’s team was emphasised by the travails of Brad Haddin, who jarred his shoulder when diving to intercept a Younis edge that fell short of his outstretched glove.
Azhar Ali was taken down the leg side by the stand-in gloveman David Warner. While Haddin returned in the afternoon he was in pain often, even when he raised his right arm in futile appeals for a wicket to break the stand. After tea Warner again took up the gloves.
Australia slackened noticeably in the final session of day one but Mitchell Johnson bent his back on resumption to deliver a spell that actually extracted some bounce from a moribund surface. Younis was inconvenienced more than once, and in Johnson’s second over of the day he waved his bat at a ball angled across and offered a chance in the gully, where Warner dropped it.
The spurning of such a rare opportunity seemed to suggest that Australia’s fielders had ceased to expect catches with the regularity of last summer, and their troubles were soon compounded by another ball that fell short. Diving for a Younis edge from Peter Siddle, Haddin landed on the point of his right shoulder and after grimacing through a few overs in obvious pain, he gave up the gloves to Warner.
Almost immediately Nathan Lyon beat Younis through the air and off the pitch with a sharp off break, but Warner was unable to complete the stumping chance. Lyon could not really blame his part-time offsider, and in the next over Warner made amends in any event. Azhar’s fine leg glance off Mitchell Starc required swift movement to the left but Warner did so ably.
The wicket brought only temporary relief however, as Misbah quickly found his stride in the company of the unflappable Younis. Pakistan’s captain appeared to enjoy the rare sensation of walking out to bat with his side in complete control, and skipped to a rapid half-century.
Haddin returned to the field after lunch, but his pained expressions were to be mimicked by team-mates as Younis and Misbah stretched out their stand with minimal difficulty.
In a strong indicator of Australia’s need to look for a quality leg-spin bowler, Smith was the only man to cause trouble, gaining variation of spin and also having one ball shoot through low. But the Australians were now minor characters in a pageant that was being watched by a hearty crowd, just in time to laud Younis’ double hundred and Misbah’s first century in almost a year.
Smith’s dismissal of Misbah shortly before tea required a video replay to confirm, but the part-timer’s success appeared another omen for Pakistan – Yasir Shah watched from the stands. Younis’ innings was only ended by a charge and slog at Siddle. Without such extravagance he may well have batted on forever.