Pakistan opener Abdullah Shafique has thrown away his wicket just minutes before the lunch break to gift Australia its first breakthrough.
Australia’s first Test in Pakistan in 24 years is finally here.
The historic fixture is Usman Khawaja’s first taste of cricket in his nation of birth and is also Australia’s first Test following the departure of coach Justin Langer.
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The match will begin shrouded by the death of Aussie cricket legend Rod Marsh with the Aussie team indicating it will be wearing black armbands this test to honour the 74-year-old.
Pakistan has won the toss and elected to bat first in Rawalpindi.
Forgotten star demolishes hapless Aussies
An emotional Imam-ul-Haq has brought up his maiden Test century at Pindi Cricket Stadium, reaching the milestone in 200 deliveries on Friday.
The Pakistan opener had not been selected for a Test since 2019, averaging 25.52 with the bat in his first 11 Tests.
But on a flat deck in Rawalpindi, Imam-ul-Haq has patiently made his way to triple figures for the first time in Pakistan whites.
He brought up the milestone with a classy cover drive off Mitchell Starc. The left-hander embraced teammate Azhar Ali before dropping to the deck and praying.
Ali remains unbeaten at the other end, with their second-wicket partnership reaching triple figures as well.
As pointed out by cricket statistician Ric Finlay on Twitter, this is the first time Australia has commenced a series by conceding century partnerships for the first two wickets since the 1932/33 Ashes.
Pakistani opener approaches milestone
Pakistan opener Imam-ul-Haq returns to the sheds for the tea break eight runs short of a maiden Test century.
Azhar Ali and Imam-ul-Haq survived the afternoon session without conceding a wicket to put Pakistan in a commanding position at Pindi Cricket Stadium.
Lyon gets breakthrough after opener’s brain fade
Pakistan opener Abdullah Shafique has thrown away his wicket just three minutes before the lunch break, making his way back to the pavilion for 44.
Shafique charged down the pitch and looked to slap Nathan Lyon through mid-wicket, but the loose shot instead flew straight up in the air. Australian skipper Pat Cummins claimed a classy catch at mid off.
Pakistan No. 3 Azhar Ali makes his way out to the middle needing to survive one over before the interval.
Fifty partnership up for Pakistan openers
Pakistan openers Abdullah Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq have brought up their fifty-run partnership in Rawalpindi, achieving the feat in the 18th over.
After just 16 overs, the Australians turned to Travis Head’s part-time off-spin in hope of unearthing a breakthrough on the turning wicket.
Lyon into the attack early
After just seven overs, off-spinner Nathan Lyon has been introduced to the attack.
And he’s generating plenty of turn in his first over — way too early to tell, but perhaps selecting just one strike spinner was a mistake.
Lyon did not bowl a single delivery in Australia’s most recent Test at Hobart.
Soon after, skipper Pat Cummins found the outside edge of Abdullah Shafique’s bat, but it did not carry to David Warner at first slip.
Pakistan opener survives early review
Australia have already wasted a review, with Pakistan opener Imam-ul-Haq surviving an LBW shout in the fifth over.
Mitchell Starc struck the left-hander high on the pad, and captain Pat Cummins called for the review after the umpire shook his head.
But Hawkeye replays showed the Kookaburra was going over the stumps, and the Aussies have two unsuccessful reviews remaining.
And we’re underway in Rawalpindi
Opener Abdullah Shafique survives the first delivery from Mitchell Starc, and Pakistan are already off to a better start than England in the Ashes.
There have been 11 Tests played at Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium, and only twice has the team that batted first won the match.
Ashes hero Scott Boland axed
Australia has confirmed its starting XI for the first Test against Pakistan, with three pace bowlers named for the series opener in Rawalpindi.
Ashes hero Scott Boland, who claimed 18 wickets at 9.55 against England this summer, has been replaced by Australian stalwart Josh Hazlewood.
Nathan Lyon will serve as the lone tweaker, despite speculation Australia would play two strike spinners for the first Test — Queensland’s Mitch Swepson will once again have to wait for a Baggy Green.
Meanwhile, David Warner and Usman Khawaja will open the batting.
Play is scheduled to get underway at 4pm AEDT. Pakistan has won the toss and elected to bat first.
Australian XI: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins (c), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood
Pitch ambush isn’t what was predicted
Aussie captain Pat Cummins has played down fears his team is starting at a disadvantage while playing on a Pakistan pitch for the first time.
Australia haven’t toured Pakistan since 1998 as security issues kept international teams from visiting, and as a result are unfamiliar with the local pitches.
However, Cummins said the wicket does not appear to be anything out of the ordinary.
“It looks like a good wicket … as expected,” Cummins told reporters on the eve of the match.
He said Australia would probably go into the Test with three quick bowlers or two spinners.
“We just want to have another look at the wicket,” he said.
Rain forced both teams to cancel their practice sessions on Thursday, but the forecast is clear for Friday and most of Saturday, with showers likely on the last three days of play.
Despite the weather, Cummins and Azam were geared up for the historic Test — to be played in front of a sellout 16,000 crowd in Rawalpindi, the garrison city just south of the capital, Islamabad.
The Aussie skipper refused to accept that Pakistan would be fielding a depleted side as a result of injuries to star fast bowler Hasan Ali and all-rounder Faheem Ashra.
“It’s a loss for the Pakistan side, but there’s always another guy that can step up,” he said.
The second Test is in Karachi from March 12 while the third match is in Lahore starting on March 21.
Australia and Pakistan will also play three one-day internationals and one Twenty20.
— with AFP
Originally published as Australia vs Pakistan first Test, day 1 live: Imam-ul-Haq scores maiden Test century