Bad light meant the visitors only had to face one over in the evening which raised a few questions over Pakistan’s tactics
Australia 5 for 0 trail Pakistan 476 for 4 dec (Azhar 185, Imam 157) by 471 runs
Azhar’s marathon 361-ball vigil ended midway through the final session when he fell seeking quick runs as Pakistan declared on 476 for 4 about an hour before stumps. Under the floodlights amid gloomy skies, Pakistan had to resort to spin to keep playing but only a solitary over from Sajid Khan was bowled before players left the field and stumps were called shortly after with Australia at 5 for 0.
Pakistan might have been wiser to declare a little earlier considering the deteriorating light, which ultimately reprieved Australia openers Usman Khawaja and David Warner, but they should remain well satisfied after another commanding performance.
After winning a crucial toss and electing to bat, Pakistan had three big partnerships at the top as their meticulous approach never gave Australia a sniff in the favourable batting conditions. It was a slow burn but they turned the screws in similar fashion to their success over Australia in the UAE in 2014 and 2018.
A minute’s silence was observed before play in memory of Warne and victims of the terror attacks in Peshawar as players from both teams wore black armbands.
After unwavering patience, as he crawled towards his 19th Test ton after lunch, Azhar went for broke on 97 and skipped down the pitch only to miscue Lyon over the leg side but safely into the boundary to trigger jubilation in the terraces, which filled towards capacity later in the day after only a smattering of spectators early, some of whom were holding placards honouring Warne.
Cummins was rewarded for his persistence when he had the indefatigable Imam trapped lbw to end his brilliant maiden Test century of 157 from 358 balls. In a breakout performance, after a modest previous 11 Test output over four years, Imam reviewed in vain and trudged off but his superb knock provided Pakistan with the perfect platform to switch gears.
Mohammad Rizwan and Iftikhkar Ahmed were promoted up the order in a clear sign of Pakistan’s intentions after it had seemed the hosts were intent on extending Australia’s misery in the field into a third day.
After eye-catching captaincy on the opening day, where he deployed eight bowlers and tapped deep into his bag of tactics, Cummins mostly stuck with his frontline bowlers although occasionally unveiled inventive fielding placings, including two fielders either side of square leg and a short mid-on to combat Azhar late in the first session.
He finally turned to Labuschagne, who bowled four overs on day one, and his nice spell after tea was rewarded with the wicket of Azhar. His handy bowling further shone the spotlight on Cummins’ baffling decision to use the docile offspin of Travis Head early on day one, which sparked a slow-starting Imam into action.
With the quicks being rebuffed by Pakistan’s stout batters, there was a heavy burden on Lyon who finished with 1 for 161 off 52 overs.
After enduring criticism during the Ashes, wicketkeeper Alex Carey’s struggles behind the stumps continued throughout the innings marred by two dropped catches, including reprieving Rizwan on naught off Lyon in the final session.
A flagging Australia will have to shrug off their tough start to the tour, their first in Pakistan in almost 24 years and with no warm-up matches, otherwise they are staring down the barrel of falling behind in the three-match series.
Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth