AT the end of the third day’s play it will be fair to say that Pakistan are in with a fair chance to strike the first blow having taken a lead of 325 runs with still a reasonable amount of batting force in hand.
The pitch as I had mentioned yesterday will start to behave in a different manner and it did when Tim Paine’s men resumed at their overnight score to provide a solid first-wicket partnership of 142 with both Usman Khawaja and debutant Aaron Finch keeping the Pakistan pace and spin attack at bay.
But once that threatening stand was dismantled, the rot set in, exposing thus the Australian batsmen’s inability to cope with a pitch of low bounce as wickets tumbled and the best perished, like Mitchell Marsh, were dismissed for not being able to handle the Pakistan spinners including the 33-year-old debutant Bilal Asif who finished with six wickets — for 36 runs in 21.3 overs — on a fairytale debut.
If not for those missed opportunities by our fielders including the wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed, the Australians plight would have been a lot more disappointing their end of the innings where they conceded Pakistan a massive lead of 280 runs on the first innings.
The threat of course was the leg-spin of Yasir Shah but to the surprise of everyone it was this off-spinner from Sialkot who inflicted the most damage along with the ever successful seamer Mohammad Abbas who shared the rest.
What really frustrated the Australian batsmen was the tantalising loop of Bilal Asif which he bowled intelligently varying his flight and pitching the ball to the left-handers on the rough patches inducing forward prod and offering catches to the close fielders.
Most of his victims were caught at close quarters of the pitch which obviously was the indication that his line, length and flight seldom faltered nor did Abbas’ nagging accuracy, a characteristic in his armoury which seldom fails him.
Day three of course was in sharp contrast to the first two days play when the pitch was lifeless with no bounce nor lift or turn. Thirteen wickets fell yesterday of which nine of them were credited to spinners if take into account the three wickets that Pakistan also lost at the fag end of the day.
Today, with already leading by 325 runs, Pakistan would need to consolidate their position further by adding another hundred runs before unleashing their spinners and go for the jugular once again.
As it is Pakistan are already in control of the proceedings which I feel may bring in a desired result in the end.
Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2018