DUBAI (Reuters) – Australia coach Justin Langer has praised the new opening pair of Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja after they gave Tim Paine’s rebuilding side a solid platform in the drawn first test against Pakistan in Dubai.
Finch and Khawaja, promoted up the order in the absence of the suspended David Warner, put on a 142-run stand in the first innings and 87 in the second in a stellar debut for their nascent partnership.
“One of the main building blocks is a really strong opening partnership,” Langer said in Dubai.
“So for the guys to get 140-run opening partnership and an 87-run partnership … that’s huge for our team.
“Whenever you’re building a team you’re always looking for the opening partnership and they have certainly both put their best foot forward and they’ve obviously got a good chemistry to have two great partnerships.”
Anchored by a sparkling fourth-innings knock of 141 by Khawaja, Australia batted 139.5 overs on a wearing pitch to save the game and will head to the second match in Abu Dhabi with optimism after being widely written off before the series.
While debutant Travis Head scored an important 72 in the fourth innings and Paine steered the team to safety with an unbeaten 61, the form of the Marsh brothers and rookie all-rounder Marnus Labuschagne remains a concern.
Shaun and Mitchell Marsh managed a total of 19 runs between them in the test, and were both out for ducks as Australia scrapped for a draw in the fourth innings.
Labuschagne scored a total of 13 runs for the match but chipped in with two handy wickets with his part-time legspin.
Opening batsman Matt Renshaw was overlooked for Dubai due to a lack of match fitness but Langer said the Queenslander could be recalled lower down the order.
“He’s a terrific young player, really good in the group. I admire the way he’s gone about it,” Langer said of the 22-year-old, who has averaged 33.47 in his 11 tests.
“There’s plenty of future for Matt Renshaw. Whether it comes in opening or batting number three … it could come anywhere.”
Langer was guarded about rotating Australia’s fast bowlers for Abu Dhabi after spearhead Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle toiled for long hours in enervating heat as Pakistan racked up 482 in the first innings.
Left-armer Starc has had a history of bone stress injuries, and Langer was mindful of the four-test series to come against India in the home summer.
“We’ll manage it. It’s the start of the season and hopefully we’ll manage them well throughout the summer and this tour so far,” he said.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford)