Today AUSvPAK contest was the day of personal milestones with Azhar Ali cranking up another double century (205*) – highest ever scored by any Pakistani batsman in Australia – and David Warner ending his year-long lean run in the elite format with his belligerent ton.
On an increasingly friendly surface at the MCG, in the excess of 400 runs were harvested by both sides for the loss of just 5 wickets. Earlier in the day, Sohail Khan and Azhar Ali made hay, but David Warner and Usman Khawaja later replied befittingly, removing any anxieties in the home dressing room and leaving a draw the most likely result.
The start of play was delayed by more than 30 minutes due to the lightest of showers that hovered over the MCG. When play resumed, Amir and Azhar started off with an intent to build on Pakistan’s first innings tally before Amir feathered one down the leg side to wicketkeeper Matthew Wade off Mitchell Starc.
Rain returned after an hour’s play, but when it resumed again it was Sohail Khan who impressed everyone with his audacious power hitting skills despite Australia having three fielders in the deep continuously. He belted Nathan Lyon repeatedly over the Northern fence causing further agony to Smith and his team.
His run-a-ball 65 lifted Pakistan to 443, a score which seemed uncertainty when they teetered at 4-125 midway through the opening day.
Just as they were written off in the first game a week earlier when they were 6-220 at one stage in pursuit of a monumental record chase, only to find themselves 40 short of history altering win courtesy of some mercurial fight back of late.
After Pakistan had declared their first innings that had spanned over 7 weather-affected sessions, Australia enjoyed the best conditions this Test has offered to reduce the deficit by more than half in just 58 overs.
A rate that Pakistan couldn’t contemplate let alone achieve as they batted mostly in overcast conditions that continuously aided seam and swing.
Australian fightback was essentially led by a bold second-wicket partnership between Warner and Khawaja that brought 198 runs at nearly run a ball. It carried Australia to 2-278 at stumps (with Khawaja still there at 95).
Warner’s century ended his nearly a year of drought in Test cricket, which he celebrated with a roar, a fist pump, and a sponsor-friendly leap.
But it was a milestone that should never have come, after he was bowled by a fast, reverse-swinging gem from Wahab Riaz (when on 81) that slammed into his pad and then cannoned into stumps.
Wahab had barely formed his celebratory shout not realizing that the ball had dislodged Warner’s middle stump when everyone noticed umpire Ian Gould’s far-stretched arm signaling a no-ball.
Wahab seemed to find his method working in the final phase of play when he targeted Warner with a relentless burst of short pitch bowling, causing one to finally brush the glove of the left-hander on its way to the keeper.
That brought Steven smith to the crease who will resume the innings tomorrow along with Usman Khawaja.
However, the sunshine that bathed the iconic MCG is expected to give way to more passing showers and possibly thunderstorms tomorrow at which point all hope of an outcome seems likely to disappear.
To read about the first test match as it happened, click here