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Steven Smith’s brigade emerged on top of Pakistan in 1st session of Day 5 at Brisbane Getty Images

Australia beat Pakistan by 39 runs to take a 1-0 lead in the three-Test series at The Gabba, Brisbane. The win did not come easily for the hosts as they were made to toil by the subcontinental side after being reduced to 220 for 6. Pakistan ended Day Four at 382 for 8 with all three results possible. The visitors slowly started getting close the target before Asad Shafiq’s dismissal changed the complexion of the game. The winner of the Man of the Match award went for a memorable 137 as Yasir Shah was the last wicket to fall, to handover a hard-fought victory to Steven Smith and co.

Winning the toss, Australia elected to bat on Day One. They were cruising at one point courtesy a steady start by their openers. Matt Renshaw made an impressive 71 but it was Smith and Peter Handscomb’s centuries which propelled their side’s score to 429. Pakistan had a chance to fold their innings below 400 but Australia’s tail pulled it off. Probably, this was the first instance of what was in store by the tail-enders in the match.

Full cricket scorecard: Australia vs Pakistan, 1st day-night Test at Brisbane

In reply, Pakistan surrendered without putting up a fight as they were bowled out for 142. Sarfraz Ahmed was unbeaten on 59 whereas only Mohammad Aamer and Sami Aslam showed some resistance. With a humongous lead of 287 runs, Smith did not enforce the follow on as Australia piled up 202 for 5 before declaring. The target was a steep ask for the visitors as they had to chase the highest score in the fourth innings of 490.

Pakistan had two full days to go for the chase which set the Test beautifully in the picturesque stadium at The Gabba. Pakistan put up a much better fight with their openers playing steadily. They finished Day Three at 70 for 2 with Azhar Ali and Younis Khan battling it out in the middle. They had to regroup and start afresh on the penultimate day with Australia’s disciplined bowlers needing only 8 wickets to script a thumping win.

What panned out in the last two days was far from a ‘thumping win’ for the hosts. Younis and Azhar played steadily by displaying solid defence and striking the ball from the middle of the blade. There was more drama in the middle with signs of thunderstorm and rain interruptions from time to time. Azhar (71 off 179 balls) and Misbah-ul-Haq departed in quick succession in the second session to leave their side tottering in a mammoth chase. Misbah failed to fire in both innings which may have been the difference in the end, but he will be proud of the fight shown by his young troops.

Younis ditched his side soon after his fifty with a careless stroke at 65. Sarfraz played some blinders, including a sweep off Jackson Bird, but perished for 24. Asad Shafiq, on the other end, was the last man standing for his side with a lot riding on him. He batted unflinchingly with the tail and built partnerships with the likes of Aamer, Wahab Riaz and Yasir to keep his side in the hunt. His innings was filled with timely strokes, calculative risks, watchful tendency against the pacers and immense self belief. He lost Aamer when the rookie pacer was 2 runs short of his maiden fifty.

Day Four ended with Shafiq getting to his 10th ton (whereas his 9th at No. 6, most by any) but lost his partner, Wahab, for 30. The equation, at stumps, left Australia requiring two scalps whereas Pakistan needed 108 to jot down a famous triumph.

All eyes were on Pakistan on Day Five. They did not disappoint. Only a team like Pakistan can fold for 142 and still put up a brave fight chasing 490. Cometh the hour, cometh the ‘team’. Shafiq and Yasir started the day with the crowd right behind them. The stadium had more Pakistani fans, for the first time, than the local crowd which showed which team had the game coming their way.

The duo stitched composed innings from their ends to take Pakistan closer to the total. Smith was feeling the pressure as he was jittery and constantly shuffling his bowlers. Take nothing away from Australia’s bowlers as they regularly bowled in right lines. Josh Hazlewood was unlucky to get no success in his wicket tally but was testing the batsmen on most occasions. Mitchell Starc and Bird had three scalps each whereas Nathan Lyon had two wickets but suddenly no one was able to get past Yasir or Shafiq.

This was the first instance where a team had fifty-plus partnerships at No. 7, and 9 as the deficit reduced to less than 50. The 145th over put the game in Australia’s kitty as Starc removed Shafiq for a snorter of a delivery. The right-hander had made a mark. This was a resounding statement from the 30-year-old which has set the tone for the series and instilled confidence in his camp.

He left for 137 after working hard with the tail to not only get his side close to a win but also frustrate the Aussie bowlers for long. Yasir was the last man out as he was well short of the crease against Smith’s thrown from behind the stumps.

This Test once again proved the mettle of longer format and why it is regarded as the purest of the format. Australia may have won but they escaped from the jaws of defeat. Pakistan were down and out but came back hard and should be complimented for producing a cliff hanger at The Gabba.

Brief scores:

Australia 429 & 202 for 5 decl. (Usman Khawaja 74, Steven Smith 63; Rahat Ali 2 for 40) beat Pakistan 142 & 450 (Azhar Ali 71, Younis Khan 65, Asad Shafiq 137; Mitchell Starc 4 for 119, Jackson Bird 3 for 110, Nathan Lyon 2 for 108) by 39 runs.

Full cricket scorecard: Australia vs Pakistan, 1st day-night Test at Brisbane

Man of the Match: Asad Shafiq

(Aditya Sahay is a journalist with CricketCountry who is completely into sports and loves writing about cricket in general. He can be followed on Twitter @ adisahay7)