If not for Usman Khawaja's patience, Australia's tour of the UAE would have been considered every bit of the car crash it has turned out to be since. Since his heroics in the first Test, Australia have showed themselves to be as substandard as they habitually are whenever they have reached Asian shores in recent times.
It couldn't have been much different this time, particularly since they arrived with a weakened side for reasons everyone knows about by now.
But Justin Langer, and those higher up the pecking order Down Under, will be alarmed by the lack of fight shown by their side in the format that arguably gave them the best chance to be competitive. It is true, of course, that Pakistan are on a scarcely believable run in T20I cricket for the past two years, but this very Australian side matched them in Zimbabwe just a few months ago. You wouldn't have guessed it by the limp performance they offered on Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, especially in the Powerplay, where six Australian wickets fell and killed the game. Of those six, only one didn't fall under the category of "given away", so abysmal was the shot selection and decision making.
Aaron Finch was rightfully scathing of his side's performance after the game, calling it "embarrassing", but even the wiliest spin doctor couldn't have come up with an assessment too dissimilar to the Australia captain's. Australia do know they can perform much better than they did, and their effort in the field had a lot going for it. Andrew Tye and Billy Stanlake bowled particularly well and never let Pakistan off a somewhat short leash, and their collective figures of 8-0-45-6 on the day would rarely end up on the wrong side of a drubbing.
They would have been frustrated to see all that lost in the batting chaos that followed.
But at the same time, Pakistan know they can play much better too. On track for 180 towards the tail-end of their innings, Pakistan experienced a dramatic collapse of their own that seemed set at one stage to prove decisive to the outcome of the match. Five wickets were lost in ten balls for three runs, and it was only three lusty blows from Hasan Ali in the final over that took them past 150. With a middle order that's set to welcome Shoaib Malik back, Pakistan will have an ideal anchor through the later overs to prevent the sort of slide that nearly cost them in the first game. Their bowling, though excellent, was barely tested, too, and will be raring to press home the advantage.
In the spotlight
Shadab Khan was peripheral to Pakistan's victory in the first T20I, which isn't a word one would use to describe the 20-year-old too often. That's for good reason; he's been a huge part of Pakistan's T20I form ever since he burst into the limelight with three and four wickets in his first two T20Is, and has since risen to become one of the best limited-overs spin bowlers in the world. His economy rate - 6.61 - is exceptional, and he has gone wicketless in the shortest format just four times in 24 innings. However, since those opening two games, he's never been able to take wickets in clumps and he's yet to take more than two wickets in a game. It's down to no obviously apparent reason, and it seems the legspinner is due another day in the spotlight. It could just be tomorrow.
A top order comprising D'Arcy Short, Aaron Finch, Glenn Maxwell and Chris Lynn doesn't sit too comfortably with the perception Australia have been forced to field a weakened T20I side. The quartet is the envy of T20 franchises around the world, and the pride and joy of those fortunate enough to lay claim to their services. Their strike rates in T20Is are 131, 160, 160 and 134 respectively, but it won't do their side much good if all four are back in the pavilion long before the Powerplay is done. That was the case yesterday, but Australia have to expect a better showing with an order like that. These players have delivered for sides all over the globe, and while none of them have played franchise cricket in the UAE, performances in the next two games could see that change as early as next year's Pakistan Super League.
Shoaib Malik's availability means it is likely Pakistan will make at least one change, but it isn't yet certain who he would come in for. Pakistan didn't need the bowling services of either Hussain Talat or Mohammad Hafeez in Abu Dhabi, and those two could be among the likeliest to sit out.
Pakistan: 1 Babar Azam, 2 Fakhar Zaman, 3 Mohammad Hafeez , 4 Shoaib Malik, 5 Asif Ali, 6 Sarfraz Ahmed (capt & wk), 7 Faheem Ashraf, 8 Imad Wasim, 9 Shadab Khan, 10 Hasan Ali, 11 Shaheen Afridi
Aaron Finch said there may be a number of changes after the disappointing performance on Wednesday, so Australia's line-up is anybody's guess.
Australia (possible): 1 Aaron Finch, 2 D'Arcy Short, 3 Chris Lynn, 4 Ben McDermott/ Mitchell Marsh, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Alex Carey (wk), 7 Ashton Agar, 8 Nathan Coulter-Nile, 9 Adam Zampa, 10 Andrew Tye, 11 Billy Stanlake
Pitch and conditions
Dubai has traditionally seen higher scores than Abu Dhabi, and under the lights tomorrow, batting first may not be an unwelcome prospect. The weather, like Abu Dhabi, will be hot and dry.
Stats and trivia
The Dubai International Stadium hasn't hosted a T20I between two Full Members since September 2016, when West Indies took on Pakistan. Pakistan have a mixed record at the ground, with 10 wins and 10 losses. The only tie here came in a match between Pakistan and Australia, with Pakistan winning the Super Over.
Five of the top ten T20I run-scorers for Pakistan are in the squad for this series. Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed and Fakhar Zaman are all expected to play tomorrow.
D'Arcy Short has reached double figures in 10 consecutive T20Is before the Abu Dhabi T20I. His only other single figure score in his career came on debut, when he was dismissed for 4 against New Zealand.