LAHORE: With three more days to play, Pakistan trailing by 301 runs and Azhar Ali and Abdullah Shafique looking to build on their unbeaten 70-run stand, the series-deciding third and final Test against Australia here at the Gaddafi Stadium looks evenly poised.
Pacers Naseem Shah and Shaheen Shah Afridi completed four-wicket hauls on Tuesday but Australia still managed to post 391 in their first innings thanks to a 135-run sixth-wicket stand between Cameron Green (79) and Alex Carey (67). Pakistan lost opener Imam-ul-Haq early on but Abdullah (45) and Azhar (30) ensured they ended the day without any further damage.
“We have got a good start to our batting, so we need to take the total to 450-500 and then bowl our team to success,” Shaheen, who termed the pitch conducive for batting, told an online news conference.
Having wrapped up the Australian innings with a searing yorker that dismantled Mitchell Swepson’s stumps after lunch to finish with 4-79, Shaheen added Pakistan had to be patient in their search for wickets.
“You have to be patient on such wickets where you have to wait for the ball to get old for reverse swing and get results,” he said. “You have to give them [Green and Carey] credit for batting very well in the first session, but that’s the beauty of Test cricket, you win some sessions, you lose some. We tried to bowl the right areas and in partnership so after they had a good stand we got the breakthrough and got success.”
Having resumed at 232-5, Green and Carey had frustrated Pakistan in the first session before left-arm spinner Nauman Ali got the breakthrough the hosts so wanted. Trying to play across the line, having hit seven boundaries, Carey was hit on the front pad and was adjudged lbw in the fourth over after lunch.
Green followed soon after, with Naseem (4-58) cleaning him up with a fizzing delivery that went through his bat and pad and onto off-stump.
“Naseem bowled really well all day,” Green said during an online news conference, “he was getting the ball to reverse pretty largely both ways.
“Unfortunately just a lack of concentration by me when you’ve been batting out there for a while. I thought I saw the ball go away from me but it came back in. That’s kind of what you face over here.”
Once Green departed Australian didn’t resist as Shaheen got Mitchell Starc and Naseem cleaned up Australian skipper Pat Cummins in quick successions before Shaheen dealt the last blow to the visitors.
Pakistan’s innings started slow with openers Abdullah and Imam adding only 20 in 12 overs together before the latter was trapped lbw by Cummins. The right-armer could have struck earlier as well when he squared up Abdullah to find a thick outside edge only to see the ball evade Green at third slip closely.
Abdullah opened up 16 overs into the innings when he drove Cummins down the ground exquisitely but survived another chance in the same over as the ball flew past Carey and Steve Smith at first slip off the right-handers edge with Azhar on the other end.
Azhar announced his arrival as he came down the pitch to hit a towering six off Nathan Lyon before surviving a stumping chance off Swepson before Abdullah took on the leg-spinner to loft him through the covers.
There weren’t many occasions, though, where the duo went after the Australian bowlers as Azhar and Abdullah scored only 16 runs in the last ten overs of the day.
Earlier, Carey and Green looked dominant as they added 88 runs to their overnight score helping Australia to 320-5 by lunch.
Pakistan thought they had made the breakthrough when umpire Aleem Dar gave Carey caught behind off pacer Hasan Ali but the left-hander reviewed straight away and the replay showed that he missed the ball which had also not carried to his Pakistan counterpart Mohammad Rizwan.
Carey made the most of the reprieve by hitting spinner Sajid Khan for two fours before reaching his third Test fifty off just 73 balls. Green, on the other hand was slower, bringing up his half-century off 117 deliveries.
The pairing was eventually broken when Nauman struck as Australia ended up losing their last five wickets for only 71 runs.
AUSTRALIA (1st innings, overnight 232-5):
D. Warner lbw b Shaheen 7
Usman Khawaja c Azam b Sajid 91
M. Labuschagne c Rizwan b Shaheen 0
S. Smith lbw b Naseem 59
T. Head c Rizwan b Naseem 26
C. Green b Naseem 79
A. Carey lbw b Nauman 67
M. Starc c Nauman b Shaheen 13
P. Cummins not out 11
N. Lyon b Naseem 4
M. Swepson b Shaheen 9
EXTRAS (B-13, LB-4, NB-8) 25
TOTAL (all out, 133.3 overs) 391
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-8 (Warner), 2-8 (Labuschagne), 3-146 (Smith), 4-187 (Khawaja), 5-206 (Head), 6-341 (Carey), 7-353 (Green), 8-369 (Starc), 9-374 (Lyon).
BOWLING: Shaheen 24.3-3-79-4, Hasan 20-5-61-0 (3nb), Naseem 31-13-58-4 (2nb), Nauman 24-4-77-1 (3nb), Sajid 33-4-97-1, Babar 1-0-2-0.
PAKISTAN (1st innings):
Abdullah Shafique not out 45
Imam-ul-Haq lbw b Cummins 11
Azhar Ali not out 30
EXTRAS (B-1, NB-3) 4
TOTAL (for one wicket, 39 overs) 90
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-20 (Imam).
YET TO BAT: Babar Azam, Fawad Alam, Mohammad Rizwan, Sajid Khan, Nauman Ali, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah. BOWLING: Starc 8-3-10-0, Cummins 10-2-27-1 (1nb), Green 7-2-17-0 (1nb), Lyon 8-2-15-0, Swepson 6-1-20-0 (1nb).
Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2022