Teenager Naseem’s debut ends with Pakistan dismissed for 240
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — An extraordinary 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 and finish the first day of the series.
Naseem’s inclusion in Pakistan’s 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 seemed likely 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 later in the day in the first over with the new ball, suddenly Naseem was at 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, with Australian fast bowler Josh Hazlewood saying it would be intimidating for anyone.
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 Pat Cummins 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 Starc full-toss to the 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. Shafiq said the young bowler was full of confidence and had a lot of mental strength. Pakistan skipper Azhar said everyone was looking forward to seeing Naseem bowl.
The Australian pace bowlers set a good example for him, combining for nine of the 10 wickets to fall. Starc returned 4-52 from 18.2 overs, Cummins had 3-60 from 22 overs and Hazlewood finished with 2-46.
Hazlewood said the pacemen strangled the runs in the first session, when Pakistan was restricted to 57, and figured that if one or two wickets fell then there could be some batting collapses. And that’s what happened.
Openers Azhar (39) and Shan Masood (27) put on 75 before Cummins made the breakthrough with the last ball of the 33rd over, triggering a Pakistan slide of four wickets for three runs.
On the second ball of the next over, Hazlewood had 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 batters to play at the ball 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 Babar 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 dismissed Iftikhar Ahmed (7) to make it 94-5.
Shafiq was then involved in two important partnerships to revive the innings. He added 49 for the sixth wicket before Mohammad Rizwan (37) was contentiously caught behind off what appeared to be a no-ball. Replays appeared to show paceman Cummins had no part of his foot behind the crease when he delivered the ball, and it could easily have been deemed not out. But the TV umpire decided there wasn’t enough evidence to give Rizwan a reprieve. Shafiq said Pakistan just had to accept it and move on.
He and Yasir Shah 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.
Hazlewood said the end of the innings loomed ominously when Starc did his thing at the end.
“That second new ball. He was bowling at the tail, it’s a little bit darker. He’s one of the best at hitting the stumps, swing it back,” he said. “It’s pretty intimidating stuff.”