A brilliant unbeaten century from skipper Babar Azam has helped Pakistan set up an intriguing final day in Karachi after early wickets left the home side reeling early on Day 4.
After Australia declared on 2/97, setting Pakistan a target of 506 for an unlikely victory, Nathan Lyon and Cameron Green collected early wickets. However, when Abdullah Shafique and Babar Azam built a fantastic unbeaten partnership, it set up an intriguing Day 5 battle with all four results still on the table.
Here are the moments that mattered from day four in Karachi:
Afridi strikes to bring about the declaration
Shortly after the Australians passed the 500 run lead, Shaheen Shah Afridi picked up the big wicket of the world’s Number one ranked Test batter, Marnus Labuschagne.
Australia batted for under 30 minutes on day four in Karachi, and with Labuschagne and Usman Khawaja batting very well at the crease, Pakistan needed something. Enter Shaheen Shah Afridi.
In the 23rd over of the innings, Afridi would pick up the big wicket of Labuschagne, and with that, Australian skipper Pat Cummins would declare.
Australian opener Usman Khawaja would finish not out on 44* just six runs short of another half-century, continuing his dream run of form.
Australia would send Pakistan in to bat with a target of 506.
Lyon spins a web to remove Imam
In what was a very different scene to what was shown in Rawalpindi, the Australian bowlers suffocated both Abdullah Shafique and Imam Ul-Haq. Pat Cummins would open the bowling with himself in conjunction with Mitchell Starc, and they bowled brilliantly.
Reducing Pakistan to zero runs from the opening four overs of the innings, Cummins decided that if the Australians would win, they would need their spin bowlers to bring about Pakistan’s downfall. He turned to spin twins Mitchell Swepson and Nathan Lyon.
Swepson’s first over was very compact, conceding just two runs and coming very close to claiming a wicket, but it was Australia’s greatest ever off-spinner that would show why he is just that.
Lyon trapped Imam Ul-Haq for LBW which was given out almost straight away on the field. When the decision was reviewed in a desperation attempt, it was of no use to Pakistan, with the ball was hitting halfway up the middle stump, reducing Pakistan to 1/2 in less than six overs.
Green picks up big wicket of Azhar shortly after Lunch
Inside 20 minutes after the lunch break, the Australians turned to the man they always do when they need a wicket, and he delivered yet again. With just his second delivery of the innings, all-rounder Cameron Green picked up the massive wicket of Azhar Ali.
Attempting to bowl what appeared to be a short-pitched delivery, the ball stayed very low on a flat Karachi wicket. Azhar attempted to duck the ball but was struck on the body in front of the Stumps and was adjudged LBW.
Azhar made just six runs from 54 deliveries, and it was a very unusual dismissal.
He ran out of time for a review, and replays showed it would’ve been a second review down the drain had he elected to send the decision upstairs.
Abdullah, Babar reach milestones as the Pakistani resistance continues
When Pakistan lost an early wicket in the second session, they were desperate to form a partnership. They would look no further than Abdullah Shafique & Babar Azam.
This partnership, worth more than 100, would see the home side through most of the second session. The Pakistani batters received their reward in the opening part of the third session, both raising their bats for half-centuries.
Shafique would somewhat change roles with the bat from the first Test, this time taking a backseat role on his way to the milestone. He was patient with his innings, reaching the half-century after facing 153 deliveries.
At the other end, Pakistan skipper Babar Azam would take on the role of aggressor, unafraid to take on the brilliance of the Australian bowlers. He would reach the milestone after 97 balls.
This would continue to frustrate the Australian side as they continued their search for a breakthrough, well into the third and final session of the penultimate day.
Brilliant Babar achieves special century
When Pakistan captain Babar Azam came to the crease, his side was reeling at 2/21 and in desperate need of someone to stand up. They would need to look no further than their inspirational leader in Babar.
Babar showed immense maturity right from the word go, as he, along with Abdullah Shafique, formed a partnership that would be worth more than 150 runs.
Babar’s intent was on full display throughout the match, as he achieved the remarkable century from 181 deliveries. His first Test century in over two long years.
The triple-figure score was brought up in style, with a sweep shot behind square leg, which would momentarily cause a scare as it hung in the air before landing safely. The Karachi crowd was fully appreciative of their superstar batter, greeting the milestone with a massive round of applause for Babar’s long-awaited sixth Test ton.
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