Khawaja leads strong fightback but stumbles just short of century

It was a day that saw Australia’s batters cash in on a highway of a pitch to keep themselves in the first match of the series.

The Australian and Pakistani players left the field at 3.53pm local time with 21 overs still to bowl because of poor light, with the visitors cruising at 2-271 and reducing their first-innings deficit to 205 runs.

The covers came on shortly after due to rain on yet another shortened day, taking the number of overs lost in this Test to 33.

Rawalpindi: Usman Khawaja was a perfectly executed reverse sweep away from fulfilling a boyhood dream of scoring a Test hundred in Pakistan on Sunday, just a few kilometres from where he was born.

After David Warner (68) and Khawaja (97) put on 156 runs for the first wicket, Australia’s second highest opening partnership ever in Pakistan, No.3 Marnus Labuschagne carved out a half-century (69 not out) alongside Steve Smith (24 not out), who looked at ease in the middle.

Six wickets have now fallen in this Test for 747 runs.

The fairytale almost came to fruition for Khawaja in Rawalpindi but a triple-figure score on this tour, Australia’s first to Pakistan since 1998, will have to wait.

As Khawaja eyed off a third Test ton from five innings since coming back into this Australian XI, he pulled out a reverse sweep on 97, which had been a productive shot throughout the morning.

Khawaja was given not out on the field, but replays showed it had clipped his glove before ballooning to Imam-ul-Haq in close. It was Khawaja’s third score of 97 in Tests.

“It’s not the ideal feeling, but you take the good with the bad,” Khawaja said after play.

“Cricket is a funny game. You bat so well for 97 and then you get out and you come back into the change room and it probably feels worse than getting a 20.

“I would have loved a hundred in Rawalpindi, near where I grew up in Islamabad. I know Mum and Dad were watching back home [in Australia] and my wife too, who is pregnant with our second child. I think it would have brought a lot of joy. To put it in perspective, I wasn’t even in the Australian team a few months ago. I’m very grateful to be here.”

In his first innings on Pakistan soil, Khawaja played beautifully and edged towards his milestone thanks to a flurry of drives and shots square of the wicket.

Three decades ago, the left-hander played with other Pakistani kids in this neighbourhood at the old Rawalpindi Stadium.

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