Pakistan lose Abdullah Shafique after a solid start in the first Test of historic series

Pakistan lost opener Abdullah Shafique after a solid start before reaching 105-1 at lunch on Friday on the opening day of the first Test against Australia in Rawalpindi.

Shafique miscued a lofted shot off-spinner Nathan Lyon and was caught by Pat Cummins for 44 in the penultimate over of the two-and-a-half-hour session, extended because of Friday prayers.

At the break, Imam-ul-Haq was unbeaten on 57 while Azhar Ali had yet to score after Pakistan won the toss and opted to bat on a dry and flat Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium pitch.

Australia seemed to have erred in their selection as they went into the Test — they are first in Pakistan in 24 years — with three pacers, a fast-bowling all-rounder, and a lone spinner in Lyon.

In contrast, Pakistan included two spinners, a part-time slow bowler, and two frontline pacers.

Australia’s pace bowlers did not take a wicket in the first session, and Lyon was brought in to bowl in the eighth over.

Lyon, who so far has figures of 1-36, turned his first ball sharply and beat the bat for an unsuccessful caught behind appeal off the fourth.

Shafique hit a six in the spinner’s third over, but the very next ball Lyon induced an edge to leg-slip — only to see Travis Head drop a sharp chance with the batsman on 21.

Haq, playing his first Test since December 2019, was solid as he hooked Cummins for his eighth boundary to complete his third 50 in 12 Tests.

Historic moment

Before the start of the match, Pakistan Cricket Board Chief Executive Officer Faisal Hasnain said the start of the first is a historic moment in Pakistan’s cricket history, adding that it sends a powerful message to the rest of the world.

“The pitch looks nice so we’ll try to put runs on the board,” Pakistan captain Babar Azam said, predicting spinners would play a key role in the first match of the three-Test series.

Australia players wore black armbands in memory of former wicketkeeper Rod Marsh who died aged 74 on Friday.

A sell-out crowd of 16,000 is expected.

The second Test is in Karachi (March 12-16) and the third in Lahore (March 21-25).

Teams:

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

Australia: Pat Cummins (captain), Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner.

Umpires: Aleem Dar and Ahsan Raza