Late in the day, a Pakistani batsman leaned forward and larruped Nathan Lyon into the seats beyond wide long-on.
In a way, this was an action replay of Lyon's last visit for a Test match in Abu Dhabi, when he was bullied by Misbah-ul-Haq during Australia's second consecutive hiding in 2014. Closer inspection revealed how much things had in fact changed - the batsman was Mohammad Abbas, Pakistan's last man, and next to Lyon's name were four top-order wickets, all taken in a breathless six balls before lunch that may well have decided this match. Australia, seeking a first series win in Asia since 2011, have the foothold they need.
How they got there was partly freakish, given the opening "catch" by Marnus Labuschagne, in which he may have set a new world record for most body parts utilised in keeping the ball from touching the ground. Australia also benefited from Labuschagne's burgeoning legbreaks, heavy with topspin and delivered with rhythm and momentum as much that of a slow medium-pace bowler as a spinner.
But the day's critical passage, on a pitch offering the merest glimmer of early assistance for bowlers of fast and slow varieties, belonged completely to Lyon. Starting with the steady envelopment of Azhar Ali, it was the sort of spell occasionally delivered by great bowlers at moments of import, whether by Shane Warne on numerous occasions for Australia, or James Anderson on one memorable morning for England eight years ago, as Lyon sat on the roller at the Adelaide Oval while still a groundsman.
On that occasion, the Adelaide Oval's pitch looked ideal for batting, with the promise that a fraction of life might be found in the initial passages. Benefiting from the freakish early run-out of Simon Katich, Anderson duly put the ball in exactly the right place to find edges from Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke in consecutive overs, leaving Australia 3 for 1 and writing the script for the rest of the match. Despite the best efforts of Michael Hussey, Australia's tally was inadequate, England's was mighty, as the tourists won by an innings.
There was, however vaguely, a shade of Adelaide's pitch about this one in Abu Dhabi, with its sparse but unmistakable coverage of grass amid a dryness that should offer plenty to spinners later in the game. Lyon later assessed it as possessing a softness under foot and and moisture that allowed for "purchase", and Mitchell Starc was certainly able to make the new ball jump in ways he had not in Dubai, despite clearly remaining stiff and sore from the first Test. But it appeared that Azhar and Fakhar Zaman had made a sure enough start before Lyon entered the fray.
His first 18 balls, 12 to Azhar and six to Fakhar, did not concede a single run, as Lyon sized up the pace and bounce on offer from the pitch. So often in Asia he has resorted to what he calls "bowling ugly", in terms of abandoning the flight and overspin of his Australian ways and seeking sharper side spin, variation in pace and relentless accuracy to trap batsmen on the crease. Here, however, he gradually opened up his traditional method, "spinning up the back of the ball" in his words, to drag a batsman forward with flight, then beat him with drop, turn and bounce.
"When the wicket's like that I have to stick to my strengths and my strength is spinning up the back of the ball and bowling like I would at home," Lyon said. "I definitely went back to bowling like I would in Australia. Personally, that's just about adapting and using the facilities and what you're dealt with to your advantage. I was pretty happy with the way the ball came out.
"I'm a massive one, especially here in the subcontinent, to bowl in partnerships, build pressure and try and go under two runs an over. I've said it over and over in time and that's one of our things as a bowling group we try and focus on, especially after losing the toss and bowling first on a day one wicket. You have to bowl tight, bowl in partnerships and build pressure, the old-fashioned way. There's no secrets to it."
Recognising when and how to bowl in certain ways is a skill as intrinsic to spin as the co-ordination to get the ball down the other end in the right fashion, and the torque to get it humming through the air and fizzing off the pitch. It's something Warne learned at the feet of Terry Jenner in Adelaide in the early 1990s, as he has related in his book, No Spin.
"'Shane, you bowl nicely and rip your leg-spinners, you bowl your wrong 'uns and your straight ones and you've got an unbelievable fipper'," Warne recalled Jenner saying. "'You can also catch well and bat too. You've got the toys, mate, but you don't know how to use them. In other words, you don't know how to get people out.' I said, 'What do you mean?' 'You need to learn what, when and why.' 'I don't understand.' 'What you are bowling, when you are bowling it and why you are bowling it'." What Lyon produced was a masterpiece of these dimensions.
Azhar, out of sorts in Dubai, was gradually reeled in, to the point that he tried a drive at a ball he could not get to the pitch of and dragged back down the pitch for Lyon to take a return catch. As a miniature spell it was mesmerising, and clearly not just to those watching on TV or in the stands. The incoming batsman, Haris Sohail, was beaten by the same drop, the same bounce, propping forward and offering a catch off the splice that silly point Travis Head took expertly. Two in two!
On a hat-trick at the end of the over, Lyon waited six balls and then delivered another perfectly-pitched offbreak that Asad Shafiq narrowly kept out with the inside half of the bat. Next ball was slightly straighter, slightly shorter, and again finding the length that Shafiq propped just short of. The inside edge onto the pad was not picked up until DRS was called upon, but its spike on Ultra Edge was as clear as the Australians' glee. Four Pakistani victims before lunch on day one were untold riches for a team that slogged through two wicketless sessions on day one in Dubai. But there was more to come.
Babar Azam, often the aggressor, is the sort of No. 6 who capitalises on the studied efforts of his colleagues up the order. Confronted by the prospect of Lyon flighting and spinning the ball in the first session of the match, with trouble all around him, he was unable to constrain these usual instincts. For Lyon, this offered the chance of the kind of dismissal offspinners dream of - the ball through the gate between bat and pad.
"When we talk about building pressure and being able to cope under pressure, that's one example," Lyon said. "But to be honest, without blowing my own trumpet, that's a pretty good offspinning ball. To actually do a guy in the air, but to also spin it through the gate, and hit the top of the stumps, that's my view of it. Some people may disagree, but I was pretty happy with it."
The first time Lyon had done this, against New Zealand at the Gabba in 2011, his quarry had been the most modest possible in Chris Martin. Seven years on, Babar was lured down, beaten by dip and turn, and might have been stumped by Tim Paine had the ball not clipped the top of the leg stump. Test match pressure had met the classical skill, and the fifth wicket was down. In the stands, Mickey Arthur held his head in his hands. While Fakhar and Sarfraz Ahmed would mount a rearguard action, Lyon was the day's headliner, for these wickets had not only flummoxed Pakistan but also left him behind only Dennis Lillee, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne on Australia's all-time list.
"I've never been one for personal success and personal goals. Or at least talking about them," Lyon said. "But it's a massive honour to pass the likes of Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson today. I have played a lot of cricket with Mitch and he's been like a big brother to me so I know there will be a bit of banter back and forth tonight and a few text messages and stuff. So I look forward to that.
"I've been very fortunate to play 80 Test matches for Australia and to be in this position to take 314 wickets, personally it's a great achievement and it's something I will look back when I retire from the game and sit back with family and friends and have a beer and talk about it. I know my mum and dad will be pretty proud. But, right now it's about me doing my best for the Australian cricket team and winning Test matches."
This Test match is still a long way from being won, particularly after two Australian wickets fell in Abu Dhabi's late afternoon light - the game scenario is reminiscent of a pair of recent Asian defeats, in Dhaka against Bangladesh in 2017, and in Kandy against Sri Lanka the year before. Nevertheless, the game is far more open than on the corresponding day a week ago, and it was Lyon above all others who opened it. Just as the second Test has so much more to offer, so too Lyon's career.