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Pakistan vs Australia, 1st Test Day 1: Asif And Aamer Give Pakistan The Edge

By on July 14, 2010

Australia 229 for 9 (Katich 80, Clarke 47) vs Pakistan…

Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer claimed three wickets apiece to counteract a battling century stand between Simon Katich and Michael Clarke, as Pakistan made themselves feel at home in the truest sense of the word on a riveting first day against Australia at Lord’s. By the time bad light closed in with 10 overs still to be bowled, Michael Hussey was dug in on 39 not out alongside the No. 11 Doug Bollinger, but a dramatic collapse of 7 for 51 had left the Aussies groping for a decent first-innings total on 229 for 9.

After winning the toss following an hour-long delay for rain, Pakistan’s pace attack revelled in the sort of conditions they could never have dreamed of encountering had they been playing this “home” Test in Karachi or Lahore. With Aamer swinging the ball late and at a zippy pace, and Asif nagging away on an impeccable seamer’s length, Australia inched along to 36 for 1 after 13 overs at lunch, which became 51 for 2 soon afterwards, when Ricky Ponting flicked Aamer straight into short leg’s midriff for 26.

Clarke and Katich made arduous but invaluable progress thereafter, adding 120 for the third wicket to carry Australia into the ascendancy on 171 for 2, but when Clarke fell to the final ball of the session, trapped lbw by Asif for 47, Pakistan had received a vital boost at the end of a frustrating passage of play, and they made the most of their incision.

After the break, Asif continued his devastating rhythm from the Pavilion End, nipping the ball down the slope to nick the edge of Katich’s bat and send him on his way for a gutsy 80 from 138 balls, before Marcus North was bowled through the gate for a third-ball duck (174 for 5). The debutants, Tim Paine and Steven Smith were the next to go – Paine had been entrenched for 46 balls for his 7 when he nicked off to Umar Gul, before Smith was unluckily adjudged lbw to Danish Kaneria, despite getting an inside-edge on his topspinner (208 for 7).

Though Hussey found rare fluency with five fours and a slog-swept six over midwicket, Australia’s tail struggled to resist a now pumped-up Pakistan attack. Mitchell Johnson was bamboozled by a beautifully flighted legbreak from Kaneria that bowled him through the gate, while Ben Hilfenhaus had his stumps rattled by Aamer. Though Bollinger hung around gamely to keep Australia going until the close, the damage to their innings had already been done.

Australia’s struggles at the top and tail of the day merely underlined the excellence of the stand between Katich and Clarke. Despite holding the captaincy of Australia’s limited-overs teams, Test cricket is the form of the game that brings out the best in Clarke’s elegant strokeplay, and while Katich bedded in in his familiarly attritional manner, it was his 77-ball 47 that secured them the honours in the afternoon session.

He picked off eight fours in total, including three in an over as Asif’s line and length wavered temporarily, and two in two from Kaneria – a flick through midwicket and a lofted drive over mid-on. Katich picked up his tempo after reaching his 33rd Test half-century, and cashed in on an exploratory spell from Shahid Afridi to close in on a century. But then, on the stroke of tea, Clarke misjudged a nipbacker from Asif that came down the slope to hit the kneeroll, and the floodgates were opened.

It could, however, have been much worse for Australia, and with more dank weather forecast, a 250 total could yet be defendable. The first man to fall was Shane Watson, who opened his account with a firm drive for four when Asif overpitched, but who was sent on his way without addition three overs later, and in a somewhat embarrassing fashion. Facing up to Aamer, he padded up to a full-length swinger that rapped him flush in front of middle, and umpire Ian Gould’s finger was already going up before the ball looped up and into his stumps.

Gould, who is the first English umpire to stand in a Lord’s Test since John Holder in 2001, might well have had reason to raise his finger earlier in the innings as well, when Katich, on 2, survived a vociferous appeal for lbw as Aamer scudded an inswinger into his shin. The replays suggested he was mighty lucky to survive, although Gould himself suggested to the bowler that there had been a hint of inside-edge.

The most notable wicket of the day, however, was that of Australia’s captain, Ricky Ponting. His top score in three Ashes Tests at Lord’s is a meagre 42, and there is little guarantee that he will be back again for a fourth visit in 2013. Having survived the worst of the conditions to reach 14 not out from 23 balls at lunch, he notched up his 11594th Test run after the break to move ahead of Brian Lara in second place on the all-time list. But then the debutant Umar Amin reacted superbly under the lid to cling on to a firm clip, to leave Ponting with what could be one last shot at securing a place on the Lord’s honours boards.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.

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