Abu Dhabi: On a day when Azhar Ali’s hilarious run-out became the talking point of the cricketing world, Pakistan managed to take a firm grip on the crucial second Test against Australia at the Shaikh Zayed Stadium.
With two days remaining, the visitors stand on the cusp of losing the Test and the series after being reduced to 47 for 1 in 12 overs, needing another 491 runs to pull off an unlikely win.
Aaron Finch and Travis Head was at the crease with 24 and 17 respectively. Shaun Marsh, who was forced to open following a knee injury to Usman Khawaja, was the wicket to fall — bowled by Mir Hamza.
Earlier, if Azhar’s run out was the silliest ever, then Babar Azam’s dismissal on 99 was painful. The 24-year-old, who made his debut in 2016 against the West Indies, was in line for his maiden ton after having done all the hard work in his 114-ball vigil. Azam was also involved in a 133-run partnership for the sixth wicket with skipper Sarfraz Ahmad. Sadly he fell short of the milestone after falling leg before to Mitchell Marsh and a review, taken more in desperation, was also wasted.
Skipper Sarfraz, who scored a brilliant 94 under pressure in the first innings, also went on to post another fine 81 and was the ninth wicket to fall with the team total on 400. The declaration came an over later and the Aussies had a mammoth target of 537 runs in front.
Pakistan, starting the day at 144 for 2, lost Haris Sohail early for 17 — stumped off a brilliantly flighted delivery by Nathan Lyon — as he went for a drive and missed it completely.
But one of the comical run-outs in the history of the game was to follow a couple of overs later. It was a perfect example of how casual one can get when things are going your way.
Azhar Ali, on 64, edged one past gully off Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc gave chase and the ball stopped just short of the ropes. By now Azhar and Asad Shafiq were chatting at mid-pitch, assuming the ball would reach the boundary. Starc threw it back and it was routine work for Paine. In a shell-shocked Pakistan camp, coach Mickey Arthur was seen shaking his head in disbelief and an embarrassed Azhar made the long walk back out of the park.
Asad Shafiq and Azam then quickly put that moment of madness behind Pakistan and took the team to lunch without any further hiccups with the scoreboard reading 232 for 4. In all, 92 runs were added in that session and Shafiq was on 42 and Azam on 34.
However, immediately after lunch the Aussies struck. Leg-spinner Marnus Labuschagne getting Shafiq caught at backward point by substitute fielder Ashton Agar. Skipper Sarfraz then weathered a hit on the back of his helmet from Siddle while on 32 to reach 60 at tea. Azam also lined himself up for his maiden ton by reaching 90 with the Pakistan total reading 350 for 5 — a mammoth lead of 487.
Though Lyon couldn’t rip through the Pakistan batting like he did in the first innings, he set a unique milestone in the contest. When he bowled his 20,000th delivery in Tests, he had the honour of not overstepping the crease even once. He was still the pick of the Australia bowlers, finishing with figures of four for 135, while Labuschagne had two against his name from 16. Starc and Marsh for their back-breaking effort managed a wicket each while Siddle went wicketless in his 23 overs.