Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth
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Stumps Australia 251 for 3 (Khawaja 127*, Smith 72, Warner 36, Faheem 1-32) vs Pakistan
In-form Usman Khawaja scored a memorable first Test century in the country of his birth, as Australia capitalised on favourable batting conditions to control the opening day of the second Test against Pakistan.
After skipper Pat Cummins won a crucial toss and elected to bat, Khawaja scored his 11th Test century to lead Australia to 251 for 3 at stumps. He finished 127 not out from 266 balls with nightwatchman Nathan Lyon yet to score.
But Australia suffered a late blow almost out of nowhere when Steven Smith fell for 72 in the penultimate over before stumps after Faheem Ashraf took a stunning one-hand catch at second slip off Hasan Ali.
The pair had compiled a 159-run partnership as they batted nearly two sessions to blunt an uninspiring Pakistan, which resorted to defensive tactics during a dull final session reminiscent of the dreary Rawalpindi Test.
Khawaja became the first Australian to score a Test century in Pakistan since Mark Waugh's 117 during the third Test in 1998. Having been dismissed on 97 in the first Test, the left-hander spent a considerable time in the 90s either side of tea before notching his milestone with a single to square leg off Sajid Khan. He jumped in the air and pumped his fist in a more muted celebration than after his comeback ton during the SCG Ashes Test. Mixing exquisite strokes with watchful defence, Khawaja notched his third century from six innings since his recall in January.
With Khawaja and Smith untroubled, a hapless Pakistan sought a defensive ploy with spinners Sajid and Nauman Ali bowling a leg stump line but Australia's batters remained patient with Smith constantly padding up during an excruciating period where no boundaries were struck for 23 overs. The only source of entertainment was Nauman's rather ambitious lbw shout against Smith for a delivery pitching way out outside leg stump that left his team-mates chuckling.
Mercifully, the second new ball was taken and the match came alive before stumps as Pakistan reverted back to trying to take wickets with Hasan eking out Smith, who fell for the second straight time in the 70s much to his disbelief.
There had been much intrigue over conditions in Karachi after the historic series, the first between the teams in Pakistan since 1998, started with a stale draw due to a lifeless Rawalpindi pitch rated by the ICC as below average. But it has been more of the same with conditions skewed towards the batters although reverse swing was evident before tea and Nauman did conjure occasional turn and bounce before utilising the negative tactics.
In a letdown after a moral victory in the first Test, Pakistan were mostly unimaginative and rarely threatened apart from quicks Faheem and Shaheen Shah Afridi conjuring reverse swing before tea but to no avail.
Shaheen, who was the standout in the first Test, couldn't quite hit top gear while Hasan, who returned from an abductor strain, struggled to consistently probe having replaced fiery quick Naseem Shah, who impressed in Rawalpindi with menacing short-pitched bowling.
After being on the back foot for the entirety of the series-opener, their first Test in Pakistan in nearly 24 years, Australia dictated the opening day's play apart from a chaotic period before lunch when they lost the key wickets of David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne. Warner fell on 36 to a gem of a delivery from returning pace allrounder Faheem, who squared up the veteran to entice an edge to wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan.
Shortly after, Labuschagne, who made 90 in Rawalpindi and is the No.1 ranked batter in the world, was run out for a duck by a direct side-arm throw from Sajid after attempting a risky single. The wickets went against the run of play after Khawaja and Warner compiled a brisk 82-run opening stand, as they weathered challenging new ball bowling from Pakistan's pacemen before putting the foot down against Sajid.
For the second straight innings, Warner rued missing out after a strong start but Khawaja cashed in to ensure Australia built a platform as they eye a massive first innings total, which would be surely welcomed by their tweaked attack.
In their only change, Australia handed legspinner Mitchell Swepson his long-awaited Test debut having been around the squad since 2017. The 28-year-old replaced quick Josh Hazlewood to become the first specialist legspinner capped by an Australian Test team since Bryce McGain in 2009.
Before Swepson gets his chance, Australia will look to continue Pakistan's toil under hot conditions in Karachi, where the temperature is again forecast to hit over 30 degrees on Sunday in a contrast to Rawalpindi's mild conditions last week.
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