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Aussie batting depth a concern after Dubai

By AAP Newswire

Australia got out of jail during the first Test against Pakistan but a familiar collapse has also reinforced concerns about whether developing batsmen are being properly equipped to handle the pressures of Test cricket.

Man of the match Usman Khawaja (141) and Tim Paine (61no) led a stunning fightback on day five in Dubai to secure a draw in the first of two Tests.

Chasing a world record 462 to win, the tourists survived 140 overs - an unprecedented effort to save a game for Australia throughout their Test match history.

The stirring performance has left spirits high in the Australian camp ahead of the second Test starting on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi.

But concerns remain after the visitors lost quick wickets in both innings.

Khawaja's 142-run opening stand with Aaron Finch was all that saved Australia from embarrassment in the first innings as the tourists capitulated to lose 10 wickets for just 60.

Shaun Marsh and Mitch Marsh, promoted to No.3 and No.4 respectively, both made second-innings ducks and combined for just 19 runs in total while Marnus Labuschagne (0 and 13) also struggled with the bat in his Test debut.

Fellow debutant Travis Head recovered from a first-innings duck to score 72 in the second dig.

Australia's batting depth has been severely tested by the ball-tampering bans handed to Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft.

Head averages 37 in first-class cricket, Labuschagne 34 and Mitch Marsh just 32 - a major shift from the Australian sides of the 1990s and 2000s where batsmen routinely averaged in the 40s after apprenticeships in the Sheffield Shield.

Past greats such as Steve Waugh have spoken of the Shield being devalued in recent times and Australian batting coach Graeme Hick says there is no better environment for batsmen to prepare for the pressures of Test cricket.

"I think there's definitely been a big shift in the way batters are going about their first class cricket now," he said.

"If you're averaging 35 rather than 45, it means you're spending a lot less time out in the middle. We all know that the best place to learn is out in the middle.

"If you're playing Shield and you've got opportunities to bat all day, try and take it and learn from it. If you don't do that there and you try and do it in Test cricket for the first time under that pressure like Uzzie did, it's just not going to happen.

"Maybe those opportunities are wasted at times with the way players are playing a far more attacking or aggressive game these days."

Hick said he hoped Australia's batsmen would continue to follow in the footsteps of past greats who honed their craft playing county cricket in England.

"In the county system, you're sometimes having a minimum of three or four knocks a week," the former England batsman said.

"You can't underestimate the value of having that experience."