Dubai draw a landmark moment for this Australian side: Stuart MacGill
Tim Paine in action. (AFP image)

Former Australia legspinner Stuart MacGill feels Australia’s draw against Pakistan in the first Test in Dubai is a “landmark moment” for this team.

After being bowled out for 202 in the first innings and allowing Pakistan to attain a first-innings lead of 280, Australia, led by Usman Khawaja, eked out an epic draw batting for the longest time in the fourth innings to finish on 362/8. Set a target of 462, or more likely a minimum of 137 overs to survive, Tim Paine‘s team was carried heroically by Khawaja’s 141 as he batted almost through the entire fourth innings on a wearing Dubai surface.

“Australians tend to overstate all of this sort of stuff,” MacGill told foxsports.com.au. “It’s not the greatest rescue act of all time, it’s not the best Test match in a decade, but I’ll tell you what, it is a landmark moment for Tim Paine, for Justin Langer, for Usman Khawaja.

“I’m not going to go sensational or unbelievable or stupendous or anything like that, but this is a very significant draw and, as far as I’m concerned, this draw is going to have a great impact on Australian Test cricket moving forward. I don’t want to be mushy, but I was very proud of last night.”

Usman Khawaja played spin well during his first Test hundred in Asia
Usman Khawaja played spin well during his first Test hundred in Asia. @Getty

Khawaja’s epic rearguard came after Australia had lost three wickets for no runs on the fourth evening, with the debutant Aaron Finch (49) and Shaun and Mitchell Marsh out for zeroes to pace bowler Mohammad Abbas. With another debutant, Travis Head, Khawaja put on 137 for the fourth wicket and then came a partnership of 79 in 36.2 overs with Paine (61* off 194 balls) as Pakistan were thwarted almost through the final session.

“A finish like that is everything that you want from a Test match,” MacGill said. “It’s not unbelievable, it’s surprising that a development team – which is what this is, or a team in flux – has the temperament to compete all the way to the end. Usman batted fantastically well in both innings, as did (Aaron) Finch and I think that Travis Head proved, which we already knew, he’s a good player. We’ve now got the momentum because Pakistan should have won and that’s the bit that a draw does.

MacGill compared Paine’s innings to the one South Africa’s Faf du Plessis played against Australia during his debut in 2012. Coming in at 45/5 needing 430 to win, du Plessis batted for almost seven hours to remained unbeaten on 110 off 376 balls to deny Australia a win.

“I’ve always been a big fan of a draw. I think that a draw can change a series. I look at Faf’s first Test match at Adelaide. His slowest ever day hundred won the series for his team. I think this was Tim Paine’s best innings ever — possibly even best innings in first-class cricket,” he said.

Tim Paine finished 61 off 194 balls to steer Australia to a famous draw in Dubai.
Tim Paine finished 61 off 194 balls to steer Australia to a famous draw in Dubai. @Getty

“He’s a proper cricketer and he understands that cricket’s been hard and he has experienced the ups and downs, which I think is very valuable. But what this has done for him is it will allow him to realise that you don’t have to be Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh or Don Bradman — you can be Tim Paine. He’s a very skilful player in his own right, but he can just be him. It’s what I think shows leadership is application and resilience.

MacGill, who took 208 wickets from 44 Tests, feels Paine’s resilient knock has set the blueprint for Australia’s next generation of cricketers.

“He’s shown young blokes that are coming into the team – in this Test match or future Test matches, or even kids sitting on the couch – that you can bat for 250 balls and make 60 and win a Test match or win a series because he’s drawn the Test with that innings,” he said. ”Drawing a Test match or a first-class match is hard core. It’s all very well to hit the fours and sixes and look at yourself on the big screen, but it’s nicking and nudging, and defending and maintaining a brave face even when you’re under fire – that’s where the hard blokes live.”