1st Test, Day 3: Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja fifties keep Pakistan searching for breakthrough
Aaron Finch stroked his way to a fifty on Test debut. @AFP

Australia’s latest opening pair denied Pakistan a wicket on the third morning in Dubai, taking the visiting team to the safety of 137/0 at lunch on day three. Pakistan still lead by 345 runs, but having been blunted for 46 overs by Usman Khawaja and the debutant Aaron Finch in sweltering conditions will have frustrated them.

From an overnight 30 without loss, Finch and Khawaja batted 33 overs on Tuesday to add 107 to Australia’s total. Finch moved from at the start of the day to 59 off 139 balls by the lunch break, with Khawaja on 68 from 137. Yasir Shah, in his first Test in a year, has so far bowled 20 overs for 64 runs.

He should have had Khawaja stumped on 17 in the fourth over of the day, but Sarfraz Ahmed failed to collect the ball after the batsman charged out.

Khawaja, with two previous Test innings as opener in a 34-match career, bedded down for a solid innings. This has now meant that Khawaja has passed 50 each time he has opened: he made 145 versus South Africa in 2016, 79 not out versus Pakistan in 2017 and now this unbeaten 68 in the UAE. He reached the landmark with a paddled three off the debutant offspinner Bilal Asif.

Finch raised his fifty on debut, off 95 balls with a mighty swept four off Asif, to justify the selectors’ decision to add him to the Test squad for the first time. He had some difficulties picking Yasir, but was saved by inside edges and top-edges to process to a pleasing fifty. Finch even struck his first six in Tests, slotting Yasir straight back over his head as his confidence soared on a docile batting track.

Shortly before lunch, Khawaja unfurled two superb reverse-sweeps off Yasir for four, before being rapped on the pads when he mistimed a regulation sweep. Sarfraz opted for the review, but Pakistan did not lose it as the umpire’s call stood. His innings have improved a batting average in Tests in Asia which before this match stood at 14.62.

This impressive opening stand has come after Pakistan lost six wickets for 72 runs late on day two to be bowled out for 482 when a much bigger total looked likely.

Brief scores: Australia 137/0 (Khawaja 68*, Finch 59*) trail Pakistan 482 by 345 runs