Related Story: Khawaja, Paine lead Australia to remarkable fighting draw against Pakistan

Almost seven years passed between Usman Khawaja's elevation to the Australian Test team and his apparent making under the hot Dubai sun.

All the stats

In that time Khawaja has been hailed as Australia's next great batsman, exiled because of his supposed inability to master sub-continental conditions and tasked with connecting crusty old Australian cricket with its multicultural future.

That long evolution, as much as the 226 runs Khawaja scored from 477 balls across two match-saving innings in the first Test against Pakistan, should provide a moment of enlightenment for Australian cricket.

This Test provided both a snapshot of the troubles that have bedevilled touring Australian teams in the past decade and — during a wonderfully stubborn and highly engrossing fightback — just maybe a glimpse of what we can expect during the Justin Langer era.

Usman Khawaja celebrates his century

It was only three days ago that Australia's first-innings collapse in which 10 wickets fell for 60 seemed the subcontinental equivalent of the carnage at Trent Bridge in 2015 where Australia was all out 60. Different conditions but same old Australian tourists.

Test side prematurely labelled worst-ever

Even as Australia set out to make 442 for victory in Dubai — or, seemingly just as unlikely, to survive 140 overs on a deteriorating surface — it seemed the chase would be remembered for that moment when the Marsh brothers were reminiscent of the Waughs.

Although, sadly, this reminiscence was due to the fact Shaun and Mitch became the first brothers to make ducks in the same innings since Steve and Mark Waugh suffered rare dual failures, also against Pakistan, in 2002.

Which is not to vilify Shaun and Mitch Marsh, who have so often been the whipping boys because they failed to provide consistent return on the vast investment made by the national selectors.

Going duck-for-duck was merely the most noteworthy statistical footnote of what looked like another meek Australian surrender.

Indeed, so abject did the batting appear after day four, Shane Warne declared this the worst Australian Test line-up he had seen.

Marnus Labuschagne embraces Usman Khawaja

Which, given the top order was without two world class performers in Steve Smith and David Warner, the handy opener Cameron Bancroft and the concussed Matt Renshaw, seemed about as surprising as a topless selfie on Warnies' Insta feed.

But just when the 12-month bans imposed on Smith and Warner seemed terribly harsh (not on the players, on an Australian public cruelly exposed to the national team's lack of batting depth), Khawaja and skipper Tim Paine (61 not out) — with valuable contributions from debutants Aaron Finch (49) and Travis Head (72) — conspired to pull off one of the greatest escapes in Test cricket.

Which raises the obvious question: Was this a one-off, against-the-odds miracle? Or had Langer's pre-Test entreaty to play time, not just play shots, helped herald a new and welcome era in Australian batting stoicism?

The common theory before this Test — and during at least three-fifths of it — was that Australian batting depth had gradually disintegrated after years of administrative confusion, and that Smith and Warner's absence had left the cupboard bare.

Bypassing Shield has harmed Australia's grit with the willow

The reasons for this decline have been manifold and complex. Offsiders panellist Gideon Haigh argues forcefully that Australia's recent obsession with fast-tracking youth at the expense of the traditional pathway, the Sheffield Shield, has had a harmful impact on Australian batting.

Particularly when players are picked for long-form cricket based on BBL form interspersed with "pathway" potential.

''It was de rigueur to talk of the Shield as concerned merely with the manufacture of individual cricket units, and winning it as a mere 'by-product' like flue gas or mine tailings,'' Haigh writes in his new book Crossing the Line.

"Look at David Warner and Steve Smith. Hadn't they more or less by-passed the Shield?"

Usman Khawaja and Travis Head bump gloves

Similarly, Haigh argues the "talent war" with other sports and the belief the best talent can be identified and packaged virtually from the womb led Cricket Australia to "harvest elite athletes simply in order to flip them in search of stars", rather than allowing their talent to emerge and ripen on the vine.

Then there is the supposed curse of Twenty20 with young batsmen's techniques supposedly tainted by the abandonment of the front foot press for more lucrative hoicks and slogs. Never mind that Twenty20 paymasters India continues to produce an array of substantial batsmen.

But whatever the cause, Australia's accidental batting tourists were regularly exposed by the two most obvious conditional variances — green seaming decks in England and the spin-friendly dust bowls of the sub-continent (and, now, the Middle East).

These vastly different challenges demand two similar virtues: technique and temperament.

Pakistan appeals for the wicket of Tim Paine

In that context, amid the constant entreaties of departed coach Darren Lehmann to "move the game on" and "get into the contest", you could have been forgiven for thinking Australian batsmen were rushing to get to a pressing dinner engagement.

So the Miracle of Dubai raised another contention: Was it that Australian batsmen could not occupy the crease, or that they were simply not being asked to do so?

We have only a sample of one innings. Perhaps Langer's introduction and Khawaja's career-defining innings are merely coincidental.

But no one knows more about the value of perseverance and preparation than Langer given his wonderful career was a triumph of almost tortuous dedication and bloody defiance.

If this really was a Langer-era performance, let the dot balls flow.

External Link: Pakistan v Australia Live scoreboard

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