Khawaja showed Australia the way to decipher Asif mystery
wickets at an average of nine. That included 19 wickets (9 and 10) on a specifically prepared Old Trafford dust bowl.
When I played my one game for Lancashire at Old Trafford in 1963, I asked the humorous and refreshingly honest groundsman Bert Flack about that pitch; “Oooh ‘twere a bluddy bad un,” he replied with a chuckle. “Them’s at ‘eadquarters (Lord’s I assumed) told me t’ prepare a bleedin’ turner,” he continued with a grin, “and a bleedin’ turner ’t were.”
Not surprisingly, modern Australian teams are often greeted with “bleedin’ turner’s” but minus the humorous admission from local authorities. The pitch in Dubai however could only be classified as a mild turner; it was far from a spitting cobra and appeared to hibernate on the last day.
The Australians produced a more studious approach in their second innings and following the example set by Khawaja, they unravelled the mystery of Asif and fought out a confidence inducing draw.
Khawaja was a man on a mission as he set out to prove that his previously poor record in these type of conditions was a thing of the past. With a more aggressive approach that resulted in sharper footwork and profiting from an improved fitness regime, he displayed skill, determination and extraordinary stamina in demanding conditions.
Following the suspension of the two most proficient batsmen in Steve Smith and David Warner, Australia badly needed Khawaja to display progress. He took a giant leap to help fill the void and deny a conservative Pakistan what seemed to be a certain victory after another calamitous first innings collapse.