Brisbane: A remarkable debut day for 16-year-old Naseem Shah started with an emotional presentation of his first Test cap for Pakistan and involved him digging out a hat-trick ball from one of the world’s leading bowlers on hostile turf in Australia.
It culminated with the teenager fending at a short ball and giving Mitchell Starc a return catch to end Pakistan’s innings at 240.
Naseem’s inclusion in Pakistan’s starting XI for the first Test at the Gabba made the rookie fast bowler the youngest player to make his Test debut in Australia.
It all happened little more than a week after his mother’s death in Pakistan, and Naseem wiped away tears after one his country’s greatest bowlers, Waqar Younis, presented him with his green cap before the start of play on Thursday.
When Azhar Ali won the toss and elected to bat, it appeared Naseem’s involvement on day one of the two-test series would be limited.
But after five wickets fell in the second session, and Starc took two wickets on consecutive deliveries in the first over with the new ball, suddenly Naseem was the crease with Pakistan in serious trouble at 227-8 and struggling to survive until stumps.
It was as daunting a debut as he could have received. Starc had bowled Yasir Shah (26) and had Shaheen Shah Afridi (0) caught behind on the two previous deliveries and Naseem knew to expect a full, fast ball aimed at his feet. He managed to get bat on ball, squeezing an inside edge away to the legside and taking off for a quick single, hoping to register his first run in Test cricket.
But senior batsman Asad Shafiq sent him back, not wanting to expose the youngster immediately to sh potentially for a full over.
The protective instinct cost Shafiq, his 134-ball stand ending when he was bowled four balls later by Cummins for 76. It was the third Pakistan wicket to fall with the total at 227.
Naseem got off the mark, even hit a boundary, and put on 13 for the last wicket with Imran Khan (5) before he was finally out for seven.
He’ll get the ball in his hand early Friday, when he can really show what he’s for.
Two collapses cost Pakistan after a solid start to the series.
Openers Azhar (39) and Shan Masood (27) put on 75 for the first wicket before Cummins triggered the first of the collapses with the last ball of the 33rd over.
Pakistan lost four wickets for three runs after Masood, who had faced 97 balls, played inside the line and edged to Steve Smith at second slip.
On the second ball of the next over, Josh Hazlewood had Pakistan skipper Azhar well caught at first slip by Joe Burns, who reached forward to grab an excellent catch at grass height.
The Australian pacemen had bowled too short in the first session but got their lengths right to start the second, forcing the Pakistan batsmen to play and getting the rewards.
Haris Sohail scored one run in 26 minutes before he was caught behind off Starc in the 39th over to make the total 77-3. Five balls later it was 78-4 when veteran batsman Babar Azam slashed extravagantly at Hazlewood and edged to Burns at slip.
Nathan Lyon bowled four overs in the first session and returned for a second spell in the 46th over, striking immediately when he had Iftikhar Ahmed (7) caught at short leg to make it 94-5.
Shafiq was then involved in two important partnerships to revive the innings. He added 49 for the sixth wicket with before Mohammad Rizwan (37) was contentiously dismissed of what appeared to be a no-ball. He was caught behind but replays appeared to show paceman Cummins had no part of his foot behind the line, and it could easily have been deemed a no-ball. The TV umpire decided there wasn’t enough evidence to give Rizwan a reprieve.
Shafiq and Yasir Shah (26) continued together in an 84-run stand in 27 overs before the Australians took the new ball after one delivery in the 80th over, and Starc swung the momentum back to the home team.
Starc finished with 4-52 and Cummins took 3-60.
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