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Pat Cummins’ Australia take on Babar Azam’s Pakistan in the first of three Tests, starting tonight. Picture: Aamir Quereshi/AFP
Pat Cummins’ Australia take on Babar Azam’s Pakistan in the first of three Tests, starting tonight. Picture: Aamir Quereshi/AFP

Nearly 24 years after last playing in the country, Australia’s landmark Test series in Pakistan is underway in Rawalpindi.

Australia captain Pat Cummins lost the toss and the hosts elected to bat first.

Pakistan was 0-10 (Imam-ul-Haq 3*, Abdullah Shafique 7*) at 4:20pm AEDT.

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MATCH SITUATION

3:30pm AEDT: Australia lost the toss and Pakistan elected to bat on a flat pitch expected to favour spin as the match wears on.

In the 11 Tests at Rawalpindi so far, only twice has the team batting first won.

MAJOR STORYLINES

Australia opted to play just one spinner and three quicks, with Cummins joined by Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon.

Pakistan have selected two specialist spinners, Nauman Ali and Sajid Khan, as well as part-time tweaker Iftikhar Ahmed.

This is Australia’s first trip to Pakistan since late 1998.

It is also Australia’s first Test tour anywhere since the 2019 Ashes.

Australia’s players are wearing black armbands in memory of Rod Marsh, who passed away on Friday.

Pakistan is without Haris Rauf after he tested positive for Covid 19. Australia spin consultant Fawad Ahmed is also isolating with the virus.

Pakistan is without seamer Hasan Ali and all-rounder Faheem Ashraf due to injury.

TEAMS

Australia 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

Pakistan XI: Abdullah Shafique, Imam-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam (c), Fawad Alam, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Iftikhar Ahmed, Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi

FROM THE GROUND

Peter Lalor

Pakistan won a critical toss and took the best of batting conditions on the first morning of the Rawalpindi Test.

Australia brought back Josh Hazlewood for Scott Boland and did not opt for a second spinner – as expected.

The home team has only two seam bowlers which is a sure signal they expect the wicket to turn as the game goes on and makes the toss all the more important.

The teams are wearing black arm bands for Rod Marsh and gathered for a minute’s silence before play in the first Test to feature an Australian side for 24 years.

The significance of the occasion was marked by the chief executives of both sides, the ICC and the Australian players association before the match.

The gratitude Pakistan feels to see a side in the country and at the ground is immense. There has been so little cricket here for the past two decades. England wouldn’t travel here late last year and New Zealand headed for the airport to go home on the morning of their first game.

So, it was a relief to see two buses enter the ground.

Todd Greenberg offered an apology to locals whose lives are disrupted by all the security, but there have been no complaints.

Pakistan cricket’s chief executive Faisal Hasnain marked the return of the Australians to Pakistan on Friday morning and paid tribute to the player.

“This series is about much more than just cricket, it is about mutual respect, understanding and admiration, it’s about all sides working together toward a common objective and with sincere intent,” he said.

Greenberg admitted players had been hesitant at first but the effort by the two boards had reassured them all and ensured Australia sent a full Test squad.

It is the first time an Australian Test side has left its own shores since the 2019 Ashes.

While the game is sold out the stands were almost empty at the start of play as the public made their way through the largest security cordon ever seen in cricket.

There are said to be over 4000 security personnel involved.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

The match: Pakistan vs Australia, first Test at Rawalpindi, March 4-8, first ball 4pm AEDT (10am local)

How to watch: Watch the match live on Fox Sports or stream on Kayo Sports

How to listen: SEN will be providing ball by ball for the entirety of the series.

Online coverage: Follow the match right here or join our match centre.

The time difference: Pakistan is six hours behind AEDT, five and a half behind ACDT, five behind AEST and three behind AWST.

PRE-MATCH READING

Cummins’ exclusive column: We waited a generation for today
Pakistani tales: The day Waugh found underground city of albinos
Fawad Ahmed: Coming home after 12 years of heartache
Aussies who helped bring world cricket back to Pakistan

IMPRESS YOUR FRIENDS

Why Pakistan is favourite

Pakistan has won four of its five home Tests since international cricket returned. It drew the other.

Australia has won just two of its 17 Tests in Asia in the past 10 years.

Babar Azam averages 110 across three Tests at Rawalpindi.

Why Australia can win

Australia actually won its last Test series in Pakistan 1-0.

Australia is the No.1 Test team in the world after winning the Ashes 4-0.

Khawaja averages 70.85 against Pakistan, Warner 108.4, Labuschagne 71.33 and Smith 53.92.

Form (most recent first)

Pakistan: WWWLW

Australia: WDWWW

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