Australia, three down for 136 at the end of the fourth day’s play, compensated for their middle-order frailties with yet another solid opening stand despite Pakistan exposing them to spin bowling very early in the innings. Yasir Shah, Bilal Asif, and Mohammad Hafeez – all three spinners in the Pakistani lineup were brought on early against Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja, but to no avail. Riding on the second fifty-plus stand in the match, the Australian opening duo achieved the feat for the second time in this decade.
Trial by spin, as many refer to it now, has remained Pakistan’s modus operandi in the UAE ever since they made it their makeshift home. 64 percent of the 456 wickets that Pakistan have taken here since 2009 – second innings of this Test not included – have been picked up by spinners. And by doing that over the past nine years, Pakistan, in 2016, even got hold of the prestigious Test championship mace. They planned the same for this series too, with four spinners in the squad, but Mohammad Abbas has been a glorious rebel, upending the well-rehearsed script for the second time in the match.
Seven overs into the session, Abbas delivered. Hitting a good length and bringing the ball back into Finch, he trapped him LBW. Two balls later, he prised out the wicket of Shaun Marsh and Australia, as a result, lost two wickets on the same score.
“A player should know his strengths,” Abbas said after the end of day’s play. “I try to take wickets with the new ball. If the conditions are like the ones here, I try to bowl at my line and length and put a lid on the flow of runs. When the ball starts to reverse, I attack the opposition.”
And attack he did in his next over. Abbas, for the second time in the match, trapped Mitchell Marsh LBW, showing Australia down from 87 for 0 to 87 for 3.
“I mould myself according to situation,” the pacer added. “Like in England, I was Man of the Series there. I know that I am the main bowler of the Test side. So, I try to challenge myself to better my previous best performances.”
When the Aussies last toured the UAE in 2014, Pakistan pacers accounted for only 25 percent of their 40 wickets. But in this match alone, Abbas has already taken seven. With 49 scalps from nine games, Abbas now stands just one wicket away from becoming the joint-fastest Pakistan bowler with Yasir Shah to reach 50 Test wickets. And, he has set his eyes on the record.
“I wanted to be the quickest fast bowler [from Pakistan] to fifty Test wickets,” he said. “Yasir bhai from Pakistan has the record for the quickest, but my eyes are on the record for the pace bowlers. I have checked that from Pakistan it is Waqar [Younis] bhai, [Mohammad] Asif bhai, and Shabbir [Ahmed] bhai in 10 matches. I want to better their record. I have one wicket left and I will try to take it tomorrow.”
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