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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

Fakhar Zaman cautiously optimistic after Pakistan take sizable lead over Australia in Abu Dhabi Test

Debutant opener, who scores second fifty of match, says hosts need to double second-innings total for chance to win series

Fakhar Zaman became the first Pakistan opener to score two fifties in the first Test match of his career. AFP
Fakhar Zaman became the first Pakistan opener to score two fifties in the first Test match of his career. AFP

Pakistan have Australia in a headlock and it might be just a matter of time before they apply the battle-ending choke-hold in the deciding Test in Abu Dhabi.

Australia were shot out for 145 in their first innings, and Pakistan - already leading by 137 - posted 144-2 in the second essay before stumps were drawn at Zayed Cricket Stadium on Wednesday.

With Azhar Ali (54) and Haris Sohail (17) still at the crease, the hosts are strong favourites to win the second and final Test and clinch the series 1-0.

Fakhar Zaman (66), joint top-scorer with captain Sarfraz Ahmed on 94 in Pakistan's first innings, produced another excellent knock in only his first Test, sharing a 91-run stand for the second wicket with Azhar.

Fakhar, who became the first Pakistan opener to score two fifties on debut, said his team needed to double what they already have posted in order to put themselves in a position to win.

“I think our position is great as the track has started to deteriorate,” the left-hander pointed out. “If we can add 150 more to the total then we will have a strong grip over this match.”

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Australia opener Aaron Finch, who dug in for an 83-ball 39 and was sixth out, acknowledged batting last would be an unenviable task but appreciated the quality of the pitch.

“There's definitely going to be some challenges there for us in the second dig,” he said.

“I think it's been a pretty good wicket so far. We saw yesterday some spin early from [Australia off-spinner] Nathan Lyon. There was a touch of moisture in the wicket and I think that's why the spin was there.

“And now it's starting to dry out and get a little bit powdery, but I think underneath the surface it's not quite as hard as what we expected.

“There's a little bit of plainness and that's where the seam is coming from, and a tiny bit of grass. All in all, it's been a pretty fair wicket so far, they've just played better than us for the first two days.”

Finch said he was encouraged by his team's bowling effort on Wednesday.

“I thought the way that we bowled in the last session today was outstanding," he said. “Obviously Nathan created a couple of chances and was outstanding.

"I thought we bowled exceptionally well and just didn't quite get the rewards we were after."

The right-hander conceded Australia may have to change their gameplan on Thursday.

“They played positive cricket so I think in the morning it's about still being patient, trying to control the scoreboard as much as we can," he said.

"But wickets, and back-to-back wickets, are going to be important to stay in the game.”

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Pakistan fast bowler Mohammed Abbas took the third five-wicket haul of his Test career. AP Photo
Pakistan fast bowler Mohammed Abbas took the third five-wicket haul of his Test career. AP Photo

Earlier, Pakistan fast bowler Mohammed Abbas grabbed a career-best 5-33 as Australia collapsed from their overnight score of 20-2 to 145 all out shortly after lunch.

Abbas grabbed the first two wickets to fall in the morning to add to the two he had already accounted for on Tuesday. He completed the third five-for of his career by trapping Mitchell Starc lbw for 34 with a yorker.

Australia lost Shaun Marsh (3) for the addition of 16 runs, as Sohail held on to a low catch at first slip for Abbas’s third wicket in his second over of the morning.

He struck again after coming around the wicket to have the left-hander Travis Head (14) caught at second slip by Asad Shafiq.

Spinners Yasir Shah and Bilal Asif then took four wickets between them to leave Australia tottering at 91-7 by lunch. Yasir had Mitchell Marsh (13) edging a ball of a leg-break that was going away from him to the safe hands of Asad at first slip.

Off-spinner Bilal sent back Finch and captain Tim Paine (3).