Usman Khawaja continued his good form with a positive half-century
Lunch Australia 100 for 2 (Khawaja 52*, Smith 7*) vs Pakistan
There was much intrigue over conditions in Karachi after the historic series, the first between the teams in Pakistan since 1998, started with a dreary draw due to a lifeless Rawalpindi pitch rated by the ICC as below average.
Hopes were high of a much more even contest between bat and ball, with spin and reverse swing tipped, but it appeared more of the same with Khawaja and Warner dominating on a relatively flat pitch as they charged towards their second century opening stand of the series.
Shortly after Labuschagne, who made 90 in Rawalpindi and is the No.1 ranked batter in the world, was run out for a duck by a direct side-arm throw from Sajid Khan at mid-off after attempting a risky single. But Khawaja, whose family hails from Karachi, batted through the session to be 52 not out and Steven Smith was unbeaten on 7 as Australia reached 100 for 2 at lunch.
Pat Cummins won a crucial toss in Pakistan’s fortress of Karachi. After being on the back foot throughout the series-opener, Australia were keen to make the early running and the openers obliged with a dominant first hour after weathering challenging early bowling from Pakistan’s quicks.
Shaheen Shah Afridi, who was the standout quick in Rawalpindi, started superbly against Warner with a lethal yorker first ball of the match followed by beating the left-hander with a pearler outside off stump. Much like his half-century in Rawalpindi, Warner made a cautious start but found himself caught on the crease and survived two tight lbw shouts from Hasan Ali bowling around the wicket.
Hasan, who returned from an abductor strain, and Shaheen rarely utilised short balls as they preferred pitching up with the ball skidding through. Sajid’s spin was deployed after 10 overs, but Warner made a statement early with a six over long off after a confident skip down the pitch. He and Khawaja hit a six each in the 17th over to continue to dictate against the offspinner.
Left-arm spinner Nauman Ali, coming off a career best six-wicket haul, was held back until late in the session but found bounce and some turn in a promise of what might be ahead on a pitch expected to break up unlike in Rawalpindi.
Having top-scored with 97 in Australia’s sole innings in the first Test, Khawaja’s fluent form was underlined as he picked off occasional wayward deliveries from a rusty Hasan. Pakistan appeared to miss the sharp pace of fiery quick Naseem Shah, who was dropped even though he impressed in Rawalpindi with short-pitched bowling, but the hosts felt better by lunch after the double strike of Warner and Labuschagne.
In their only change, Australia handed legspinner Mitchell Swepson his long-awaited Test debut having been around the squad since 2017. The 28-year-old replaced quick Josh Hazlewood to become the first specialist legspinner capped by an Australian Test team since Bryce McGain in 2009.
After cool conditions in Rawalpindi, offering much needed respite for flagging bowlers, the temperature in Karachi hovered over 30 degrees but failed to stifle the spirits of a small but boisterous crowd.
They are hoping Pakistan can continue their formidable record at the National Stadium having lost just twice from 43 Tests, while Australia are winless from eight attempts, including a famous one-wicket defeat in the first Test in 1994.
Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth