Struggling Australia facing heavy defeat against Pakistan in 2nd Test
With a foot firmly on the opposition’s throat, Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed had the luxury to bat as long as he wished and then leave Australia with an impossible fourth-innings run chase.
This is exactly what he was able to do. By close of play on the third day, Australia are 47 for 1, with another 491 runs to win or realistically six sessions to survive on Abu Dhabi wicket. Their hero in the first Test in Dubai, Usman Khawaja, with a twisted left knee, is unlikely to play a major role, this time around. He did not open the batting today and cannot bat before 76 overs or when Australia are 5 wickets down. A real blow for Australia. Khawaja’s replacement, Shaun Marsh, was out for 4, giving Mir Hamza his first Test wicket and leaving Pakistan to claim nine more wickets in a minimum of 180 overs, over the last two days.
By claiming two early wickets on the third morning, Australia kept their faint hope of bowling out Pakistan cheaply and then keeping the fourth innings target to around 350. The determination of the Pakistan middle order put paid to such thoughts as it piled on the pressure against a bowling attack, decidedly thinner following Mitchell Starc’s unavailability to bowl due to a hamstring. He did bowl three overs with the second new ball before tea but was ineffective.
The most bizarre run out of Azhar Ali will be talked about for many years to come. It was beyond belief for Azhar and his experienced partner Asad Shafiq to engage in a chat before making sure where the ball had ended. The ball had in fact stopped a few inches from the rope – between point and wide third man - and there had been no signal from either umpire to suggest it was a boundary. A throw from Starc was gleefully accepted by wicket-keeper Tim Paine to the delight of his team mates and to the utter disbelief of Azhar and Asad. With 64 runs to his name, Azhar was all set to score a Test hundred, that had recently eluded him, but could not expect much sympathy for he was seen to have overlooked the very basic principle of running between the wicket.
It took a while for everyone to put Azhar’s comical dismissal to the back of their mind to fully focus on the Test match. Pakistan 160 for 4, could have blown away the advantage by recklessness, so often the case in the recent Test matches. Thankfully today was not such a day. Asad and Babar Azam added 75 runs for the 5th wicket at a good rate before the former was out for 44 after lunch.
His dismissal, brought in Sarfraz, full of beans after his return to form with 94 in the first innings and ready to dish out more misery to the opponents. The captain’s partnership with Babar, further strengthened Pakistan position. The two added 133 for the 6th wicket and it was Babar’s dismissal for 99 that ended their fruitful stand. A stylish and highly rated batsman, Babar was most unfortunate to fall one run short of his maiden hundred. He played three dot balls and then was trapped leg-before by Mitchell Marsh, hit just above the knee roll, having faced 171 balls and hit six fours and three sixes in an innings full of delightful strokes.
Sarfraz, for the second time in the Test, had the opportunity to reach three figures but he too fell, short of the magical figure. His 81 off 123 balls with five fours and a six provided the impetus his side needed to finally close the second innings on 400 for 9. Nathan Lyon bowled his heart out without looking threatening and toiled for 43 overs to claim 4 for 135. The declaration left Australia, to bat for 12 overs, in which one witnessed attacking field placing and short bowling spells, as Sarfraz’s men go all out to win the match and the two-Test series.
©Cricket World 2018