Third day Austrailia was cruising at 278 for two to trail by 312 runs
MELBOURNE :Bat dominated ball on day three of the Boxing Day Test at the MCG. The imbalance frustrated Australia at first as Azhar Ali and Sohail Khan made hay, but David Warner and Usman Khawaja replied with aplomb to alleviate any anxieties in the home viewing area and leave a draw the most likely outcome on an increasingly friendly pitch.
Four hundred and eleven runs were harvested by the two sides for a mere five wickets. Azhar contributed 205, becoming the first Pakistani batsman to pass 200 twice in a single calendar year. He was just three short of Viv Richards’ 32-year-old record for the highest Test score by a visiting Test batsman in Melbourne when his team declared on 9 for 443.
Sohail targeted Nathan Lyon in particular, sending four mighty sixes into the crowd at the northern end of the ground. Josh Hazlewood bowled manfully for 3 for 50 from 32.3 precise and persistent overs, but Lyon’s expense was a source of discomfort for the Australians given the lack of an allrounder in the side.
Having spent six consecutive days in the field, across two Tests, Warner’s response was belligerent if fortunate. Edges were frequent, and he was also bowled by a reverse swinging Wahab Riaz no-ball when on 81. He then went to three-figures with an inside edge past the stumps and to the boundary, celebrating in his customary, sponsor-friendly style that belied the fact it was his first Test century in almost a year.
Khawaja’s innings of 95 was calmer, barely making a false move after he replaced Matt Renshaw at the crease. Renshaw, an impressively patient figure at the crease in his three Tests so far, swung presumptuously at Yasir Shah’s well-flighted delivery and heard his off stump tilt back. But the legspinner was unable to follow up with bowling of sufficient discipline, and some of Misbah-ul-Haq’s fields also caused observers to wonder.
The flow of runs continued more or less unabated in an extended final session, Warner motoring along at around a run a ball to eat into Pakistan’s advantage. He scored plenty of his runs through the point and gully regions, and, after recording his 17th Test ton, sent a towering six down the ground off Yasir.
Wahab’s spell of reverse swing should have resulted in Warner’s dismissal short of a century, but his repeated no-balls for overstepping always seemed likely to end in tears at some stage. It was not the first time he had reprieved a batsman this year – doing likewise for Johnny Bairstow during Pakistan’s drawn series in England.
The wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed had earlier caused widespread mirth when wasting a referral on a ball that beat Warner’s bat by almost a foot, but he redeemed himself close to stumps by successfully reviewing Ian Gould’s not out verdict on a tickle down the leg side by the opener. Warner partly gave himself out by walking halfway off before the decision was reached, ending an entertaining 144 and bringing his captain Steven Smith to the crease.
The start of play was delayed by more than half an hour on an overcast and sultry day due to the lightest of showers that hovered over the MCG. When it did eventually resume, Azhar and Amir commenced with intent to build Pakistan’s tally before getting the Australians in to bat. Amir made it as far as 29 before feathering Mitchell Starc down the leg side to wicketkeeper Matthew Wade.
Light rain returned after an hour’s play, but when the covers were removed Sohail launched into the bowling with rare venom swinging for the fences repeatedly, regardless of the fielders placed in the deep. No fewer than 88 runs were taken off the 10 overs leading to the lunch, including 15 from Starc’s final over of the session.
On resumption, Sohail was narrowly run out, before Azhar completed his double-hundred with a nudge behind square leg. Wahab’s dismissal, also Hazlewood’s 100th’s Test wicket, brought Misbah-ul-Haq’s closure of the innings. Australia replied with verve, but another bleak forecast for day four would not fill either side with optimism. Azhar Ali hit the highest score by a Pakistan batsman in Australia on Wednesday on the third day of the second Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Azhar overtook Majid Khan’s previous highest score of 158 posted in Melbourne 44 years ago and was just three runs short of Viv Richards’ ground best of 208 for a visiting batsman when the declaration came.
Skipper Misbah-ul-Haq called a halt at 443 for nine shortly after lunch upon the dismissal of Wahab Riaz leaving Azhar unconquered on 205 off 364 balls in almost 10 hours at the crease spread over three days.
At tea on the third day, Australia were cruising at 131 for one to trail by 312 runs with David Warner on 77 and Usman Khawaja not out 39.
Warner raised his half-century off 55 balls, reached 5,000 Test runs and was heading for his first Test century at the MCG.
Wrist-spinner Yasir Shah took the only wicket, bowling Matt Renshaw for 10 with a flighted leg break.
Azhar batted on after going to lunch on 196 but partner Sohail Khan was run out on his lunch score of 65 off 65 balls.
The pair plastered the Australian attack in an unbeaten stand of 118 as the tourists set up a declaration which came when Wahab Riaz skied Hazlewood and was caught and bowled for one.
It was Azhar’s 12th Test century in his 56th Test and third against Australia, swelling his aggregate for the calendar year to 1,155 runs at 64.16.
In October, Azhar joined a select club of batsmen with an unbeaten 302 against the West Indies in Dubai and became the first batsman in day-night Test cricket to achieve a triple century.
It was also the fourth triple hundred by a Pakistani batsman.
Mohammad Amir was out in the first session, caught down leg-side by wicketkeeper Matthew Wade off Mitchell Starc for 29 off 27 balls.
Sohail Khan, brought in for Rahat Ali in the only change from the Gabba Test loss, slammed four sixes off spinner Nathan Lyon to reach his best Test score, before he paid for tardy running when called through for a quick single by Azhar.
Hazlewood claimed his 100th Test wicket in 25 Tests at an average of 25.79 with the dismissal of Riaz.