Pat Cummins claimed both Australia’s wickets while the spinners threatened
Tea Pakistan 148 and 310 for 4 (Babar 168*, Rizwan 14*) need 196 more runs to beat Australia 556 for 9 dec and 97 for 2 dec
Captain Babar Azam survived a Pat Cummins onslaught and then menacing spin bowling before tea to continue Pakistan’s remarkable resistance, with Australia still needing six wickets to claim the second Test.
Requiring a record 506 runs or surviving 172 overs, a gusty Pakistan reached tea on the final day at 310 for 4 with Babar 168 not out and Mohammad Rizwan 14 not out. Pakistan still needs another 196 runs, but appear focused on staving off defeat and if successful it would be the second most overs survived in the fourth innings behind the timeless Test between South Africa and England in 1939 in Durban.
The backbone of Pakistan’s defiance has been Babar’s brilliance and his 228-run partnership with opener Abdullah Shafique, as the pair hauled the hosts back from a dire 21 for 2 to bat through almost three sessions.
Babar has batted almost flawlessly but faced a challenging period before tea against the spin tandem of Nathan Lyon and debutant Mitchell Swepson. Lyon almost trapped Babar lbw on 157 only for umpire’s call on the DRS upholding the not out decision.
Shortly after, Babar was dropped on consecutive balls by Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne fielding close to the wicket off Swepson, who rebounded with menacing sharp turn and bounce after wayward bowling in the morning session.
Swepson also had a huge lbw shout against Rizwan but DRS showed the batter was more than three metres down the pitch as the not out decision remained.
With oppressive conditions in Karachi throughout the match, the pitch is marked by widening cracks in a contrast to the docile Rawalpindi deck amid a stale first Test draw. There was swing, sharp turn and variable bounce evident at times earlier in the match, but the pitch has not significantly deteriorated although started to play tricks before tea.
The toiling Australian bowlers had felt pangs of nerves having been unable to bowl out the opposition in the fourth innings on three occasions since the start of last year. But Cummins almost single-handedly reignited Australia’s push for victory with two wickets during a brilliant spell either side of lunch.
With Australia seemingly out of answers, Cummins removed Shafique for 96 on the stroke of lunch after the first Test centurion edged to slip, where Steven Smith redeemed himself having dropped the opener on 20.
Fawad Alam, who made a golden duck in the first innings, unleashed his unusual set up and finally got off the mark for the series, but shortly after succumbed to a spectacular Cummins delivery.
Having been overshadowed by Swepson on day four, Lyon bowled with accuracy and good flight in his best performance of the series. Sporting a patchy record leading Australia to last day victories, Lyon has seemingly a point to prove and summoned his wealth of experience as he looms as a key figure in the final session.
A pumped-up Cummins bowled aggressively after lunch as he lifted his speed and conjured swing marked by several piercing outswinging yorkers. He was engaged in a riveting battle with Babar, who was up to the challenge and his gem of a knock continued with several exquisite drives as he passed his highest Test score of 143.
Babar soon notched another milestone as he crossed 150 much to the delight of rabid fans hoping for their hero to continue Pakistan’s firm resistance. But the terraces were hushed when Alam fell as Australia seized the momentum.
Pakistan’s hopes of a remarkable victory against all odds were raised when Babar and Shafique’s epic partnership crossed 200 runs, just the fourth time a third-wicket double century had been notched in the fourth innings in Test history.
They had been relatively untroubled in the morning session and took advantage of loose bowling from Swepson, who had threatened late on day four bowling around the wicket aiming at the rough patches. The debutant, Australia’s first specialist legspinner since Bryce McGain in 2009, was left continually frustrated after delivering numerous full tosses which were promptly dispatched by a ruthless Babar.
But Swepson has his tail up in a welcome tonic for Australia who desperately need to remove Babar to take a series lead.
Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth