Tourists require 326 more runs on the final day wit hseven wickets remaining to claim an unlikely victory in the first Test
Former welder Mohammed Abbas demolishes Australia's top-order to put Pakistan on course for Dubai Test victory
A day earlier it had been the former Kuwait-based electrician. This time around it was the guy who used to work as a welder, then in a leather factory, and also as an office clerk for a law firm.
The routes to Test cricket trodden by the leading lights of Pakistan’s victory push against Australia in the Dubai Test have been nothing if not circuitous.
Mohammed Abbas, one-time welder now batting line-up demolition man, broke open Australia’s second-innings resistance with a masterful spell of reverse-swing bowling on Day 4 at the Dubai International Stadium.
In the space of six balls, he took the wickets of Aaron Finch, and the Marsh brothers Shaun and Mitchell, to reduce Australia from 87 for no loss to 87-3.
In the 30 overs he has bowled in the match so far, Abbas has taken 7-57. It has been spellbinding stuff.
Pakistan might not have the game won yet, but they must be highly-confident they will be heading to Abu Dhabi for next week’s second and final Test holding a lead.
“The conditions here are conducive to reverse swing,” said Abbas, whose flurry of wickets arrived in the 30th and 32nd over.
“Once we get into the 29th or 30th over we get more reverse. That’s when we were successful against their middle-order.
“In the fourth innings, the conditions are more suitable for reverse swing, that is why we have been able to move it more than the Australians.”
Having already held a substantial first innings lead, Pakistan were able to set their visitors a daunting target of 462, after declaring their second innings at 181-6.
Imam-ul-Haq top-scored with 48, and Jon Holland took three wickets with his left-arm spin.
Australia’s second effort looked to be going much the way of their first, as Usman Khawaja and Finch were again dogged at the start.
Once their partnership was broken, they might have feared another collapse like the 10-60 they suffered a day earlier, inspired by the electrician-turned-professional off-spinner Bilal Asif.
Debutant Travis Head dug in, though, and joined Khawaja in an unbroken stand worth 49, as Australia reached stumps on 136-3.
“[Abbas] is bowling extremely well, and has been in good form coming from England, at Leicestershire he was taking a lot of wickets as well [in county cricket],” Head said.
“His reverse-swing bowling is class. He is always [putting on] pressure. He swung the ball away, he swung the ball in, he asked questions, and didn’t leave the stumps.
“With straight fielders, he was difficult to score off. When he has bowled over the past couple of days, the game has stopped, the scoreboard has shut down, and that has been pressure in itself.”
Australia require 326 to win the game. That is unlikely, given that the most scored in a day, even when the pitch was at its flattest, was the 272 scored on Day 4.
Head, though, said the tourists are at least confident of salvaging something from the game.
“We have seen in the past couple of days, at the start of an innings when the roller has been on the wicket, guys have been able to get themselves in and build partnerships,” Head said.
“When that wears off and it starts to spin, and the ball starts to reverse, it becomes more difficult. It is a really big first hour tomorrow morning for Usman and myself to get in and build a partnership for as long as we can.
“The whole dressing room believes we are capable of batting the day.”