Australia were left to lament a shaky start with the bat in Abu Dhabi after a stellar bowling performance in an eventful opening to the second Test against Pakistan.
Nathan Lyon stole the show with his incredible four wickets in six balls, putting the off-spinner fourth in Australia’s all-time Test wicket takers.
But it was part-time legspinner Marnus Labuschagne who impressed many with his skilful display, earning him comparisons to the great Shane Warne.
“Yeah, he might’ve averaged 16 by the end of the day, but Shane Warne averaged 25, so who’s better? That’s up to you,” commentator Geoff Lemon said.
The game took a turn when Tim Paine threw the ball to part-time legspinner Marnus Labuschagne 15 minutes before tea.
Having convinced Paine to squander Australia’s final review with an ambitious lbw appeal three balls earlier, Labuschagne redeemed himself with the final ball of the session to trap Fakhar (94) in front and deny him a century on debut.
Sarfraz continued to spearhead a Pakistan counter-attack but also fell six runs short of a ton after lofting a Labuschagne delivery to Siddle at cover.
Playing in just his second Test, South Africa-born Labuschagne finished with figures of 3-45 – and fans simply erupted:
Labuschagne is the best Leg spinner I've seen play for Australia since Warne retired. Leggies give teams an edge, may go for runs but something's always bound to happen #AUSvPAK
— Des Martin (@dessiemartin9) October 16, 2018
Saw the individual scores and it's that LABUSCHAGNE gave us the break… wow👏👏👏#AUSvPAK
— S p h u r t h y 🇦🇺 (@AUfangirl) October 16, 2018
— Lewis Read™ (@8siwel8) October 16, 2018
— Corey Baker (@coreybakerr) October 16, 2018
#AUSvPAK Mr Labuschagne looking very handy. It is incredibly sad that the Pakistan public don’t get to see these wonderful games in Pakistan where they belong.
— PaddyOFitz (@patrickfitzg_o) October 16, 2018
Could Labuschagne be this generation's Michael Bevan. Bat at 8 and selected as a wrist spinner! #AUSvPAK
— Gregor Mactaggart (@g_mac15) October 16, 2018
Marnus Labuschagne took more wickets on Test Debut than Shane Warne all the proof you need that Marnus is better than Warnie #PAKvAUS
— Tom Hockman (@Tom_Hockman) October 10, 2018
Labuschagne’s teammates reckon he’s so cricket-obsessed he sleeps with his bat, and the rookie’s joy was obvious after he started the day with a spectacular catch to spark Australia early in the second Test against Pakistan.
Labuschagne reinforced his ability under the lid with a stunning reflex grab to dismiss Mohammad Hafeez for four off the bowling of Mitchell Starc in the third over on day one in Abu Dhabi.
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Hafeez’s shot was hit hard to short leg, thundering into Labuschagne’s thigh and bouncing off his knee before the adopted Queenslander managed to get his hands on the ball in just the third over of the match:
The tourists were 2-20 in reply to Pakistan’s 282 at stumps on day one after Mohammad Abbas dismissed nightwatchman Peter Siddle with the final ball of of the day.
Trapped in front of his stumps, Siddle (four) was given not out but the decision was overturned on review.
Usman Khawaja (three) was unable to repeat his heroics during the drawn first Test in Dubai, glancing an Abbas delivery down the leg side which wicketkeeper and captain Sarfraz Ahmed snared with a brilliant diving catch.
Australia will be desperate to press their advantage at Sheikh Zayed Stadium after restricting Pakistan at a ground where the average first-innings score is 402.
However, they will be wary of a lively pitch on which Nathan Lyon (4-78) ripped through Pakistan’s batsman with a stunning spell in the morning session.
“If I”m being brutally honest, I think we took our foot off their throat a little bit and they fought back,” Lyon said.
“I thought Sarfraz and Fakhar on debut played a brilliant little partnership there in the middle session and put the pressure back on us.”
Lyon was the key for Australia in a dream start to the series-decider.
Dismayed coach Mickey Arthur buried his head in his hands as Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam all fell without Pakistan adding to their score.
It’s unclear whether Sarfraz will be able to continue behind the stumps after suffering what could be a serious left elbow injury courtesy of a Mitchell Starc bouncer.
Sarfraz, who was wearing a heavy compression bandage in the post-match press conference, said his elbow was too swollen for scans and Arthur had spoken to officials about the potential use of a replacement wicketkeeper.