The good thing was, finally, the Test series between Pakistan and Australia went ahead after 24 years on Pakistani soil and the frustrating matter was the way the highly anticipated Test ended – the dead deck really spoiled all the excitement where the bowlers toiled hard and bat dominated as if cricket is just a batsman’s world.
The two teams shake hands as the first #PAKvAUS Test in Rawalpindi ends in a draw ?#WTC23 | https://t.co/Ys6nq6wirm pic.twitter.com/Xtwp7uZfey
— ICC (@ICC) March 8, 2022
On Day 1, Imam-ul-Haq justified his selection in style with a brilliant maiden Test century to lead a disciplined Pakistan into early control of the series opener, as Australia’s pace-heavy attack toiled in batting-friendly conditions in Rawalpindi.
Getting the nod over Shan Masood in a seemingly borderline call, Imam made a statement and signified a calculated Pakistan batting effort after the hosts won a crucial toss and elected to bat on a flat pitch. An indefatigable Imam batted with caution and later flexed his muscles to score fluently.
Imam shared in a century opening stand with Abdullah Shafique, who lost his composure on the stroke of lunch and holed out tamely off Lyon on 44. It was the first opening century stand against Australia since Imam and Mohammed Hafeez combined for 205 in Dubai in 2018.
On Day 2, Azhar Ali – carried on his overnight 64 not out – hit a brilliant 185 as an unwavering Pakistan batted a weary Australia further into the ground during a dominant second day to gain a firm stranglehold of the first Test in Rawalpindi.
Most runs by a Pakistani batter in a Test match versus Australia:
270 Saleem Malik in 1994
268 Imam-ul-Haq in 2022
259 Younis Khan in 2014#PAKvAUS #Cricket pic.twitter.com/yjmN6pgz5l
— Saj Sadiq (@SajSadiqCricket) March 8, 2022
Azhar’s marathon 361-ball vigil ended midway through the final session when he fell seeking quick runs as Pakistan declared on 476 for 4 about an hour before stumps. Under the floodlights amid gloomy skies.
Pakistan might have been wiser to declare a little earlier considering the deteriorating light, which ultimately reprieved Australia openers, Usman Khawaja and David Warner.
Australia toiled for 162 overs without little reward on a flat pitch and have almost been batted out of the contest during a sombre day, as the spectre of cricket legend Shane Warne’s shock passing overshadowed proceedings.
A minute’s silence was observed before play in memory of Warne and victims of the terror attacks in Peshawar as players from both teams wore black armbands.
On Day 3, Usman Khawaja fell agonisingly short of a century in the country of his birth, but an under-pressure Australia mustered a strong batting response on the third day of the first Test against Pakistan. In reply to Pakistan’s massive first innings of 476.
Most Test hundred by top 3 batters since Azhar Ali's debut:
24 – David Warner
22 – Kane Williamson
21 – Alastair Cook
?? – ????? ???
18 – Cheteshwar Pujara#PAKvAUS | #Cricket pic.twitter.com/129ZcLNz5J
— Grassroots Cricket (@grassrootscric) March 5, 2022
The play ended an hour early due to bad light for the second consecutive day, although 72 overs were bowled.
On Day 4, Marnus Labuschagne and Steven Smith frustratingly missed out on centuries, but Australia continued their strong batting response against a toiling Pakistan during a truncated day.
A century stand in both innings v AUS:
1924 – Hobbs & Sutcliffe (ENG)
1947 – Hutton & Washbrook (ENG)
1948 – Hutton & Washbrook (ENG)
1971 – Boycott & Edrich (ENG)
2022 – Shafique & Imam-ul-Haq #PAKvAUS
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) March 8, 2022
An under-pressure Australia mustered an impressive batting effort even though their top-order missed out on centuries in the first series between the teams in Pakistan since 1998. Labuschagne (90) and Smith (78) – along with Usman Khawaja (97) and David Warner (68) on day three – left hundreds on the table amid barren conditions for bowlers.
Even though they missed out, it was the first time Australia’s top four had all made half-centuries in an overseas Test since 2008 in Delhi.
On the final day, left-arm spinner Nauman Ali wrapped up Australia’s innings early on day five with the wickets of Cummins and Lyon to finish with a career-best 6 for 107 marked by eking out Smith and Cameron Green with defensive bowling late on day four.
Nauman Ali is all smiles after his Test best of ??.?-?-???-? #BoysReadyHain l #PAKvAUS pic.twitter.com/R9GX2VDENt
— Pakistan Cricket (@TheRealPCB) March 8, 2022
Indefatigable Shaheen Shah Afridi, who was the standout quick in the match, was rewarded with the wicket of Starc to finish with 2 for 88 from an energetic 30 overs.
Australia will be encouraged by their fight back with the bat to almost reach Pakistan’s mammoth first innings of 476 for 4 although none of their batters scored a century. They also lost 6 for 52 after appearing favoured to take a first innings lead after such a strong start.
Pakistan came out to bat and openers – Abdullah Shafique and Imam – hit centuries on a tedious fifth day to again grind Australia’s attack into the ground on a benign Rawalpindi pitch, as the first Test petered out to a stale draw.
Dominating a mostly dull final day, as the historic series-opener inched towards an inevitable stalemate, Pakistan finished at an almost effortless 252 for 0 with Shafique 136 not out and Imam unbeaten on 111. The Test ended 21 overs early after both teams agreed to mercifully put this match out of its misery.
“We will never forget…”#PAKvAUS pic.twitter.com/5Cn22zI2ZF
— Nic Savage (@nic_savage1) March 8, 2022
Pakistan racked up an astounding 728 for 4 for the entire match, as Australia unsuccessfully resorted to using nine bowlers, including rarely tried Khawaja with the last over of the match.
In-form Imam and Shafique were intent on gaining a psychological edge heading into the second Test starting on March 12 on a wicket labelled as “dead” by Steven Smith and is set to be further put under the microscope post-match.
Australia toiled for just four wickets – one was a run-out – across 239 overs with skipper Pat Cummins their only quick to have success in the match.
Note: Inputs from ESPNcricinfo