Pakistan take momentum to Lahore as Australia rue another near-miss
LAHORE, MAR 17: Pakistan and Australia head into the third and final Test in Lahore with the series locked and all to play for but the home side will feel they have the momentum after pulling off a brilliant save in Karachi.
Inspired by a majestic 196 by captain Babar Azam and 104 by Mohammad Rizwan, Pakistan’s 171.4-over stonewall was the longest any team has batted in the fourth innings of a Test, barring England’s epic 654 for five in the ‘Timeless Test’ against South Africa in Durban in 1939.
“(Batting) five sessions in a Test match against a world-class team like Australia is no joke,” said wicketkeeper Rizwan.
“This match is definitely a benchmark for our team to rise above.”
Pakistan have now twice foiled Australia’s vaunted attack, though the lifeless Rawalpindi pitch aided the home side’s cause in the series-opener.
Australia, meanwhile, spoke of disappointment in falling three wickets short of victory but may quietly feel relieved to leave Karachi with the series tied.
Pakistan were motoring towards what would have been a record 506-run chase for victory until spinner Nathan Lyon dismissed Babar and all-rounder Faheem Ashraf in consecutive balls.
Australia’s inability to close out matches from dominant positions on day five has become a problem.
They have now racked up five such failures in their last 19 tests, having let England off the hook in Sydney during the recent Ashes and India twice in the 2-1 series defeat in the previous home summer.
While Australian media questioned whether skipper Pat Cummins might have enforced the follow-on rather than making his team bat again, the tourists’ sloppy fielding on day five ultimately paved the way for disappointment.
Mitchell Swepson, Australia’s first Test leg spinner in more than a decade, may feel particularly aggrieved after finishing with figures of 0-156 from nearly 54 overs’ work in the fourth innings of his debut Test, with four chances going begging off his bowling.
“I thought ‘Swep-o’ bowled fantastically today,” Cummins said.
“I don’t know how he’s ended up with those figures.”
The wicket at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium will be something of an unknown as it hosts its first Test since 2009.
Selecting an attack has been a virtual guessing game for Australia on their first tour of Pakistan in 24 years and Lahore may be no different.
Cummins said they will at least have a full complement of bowlers to choose from, with he and his fellow pacemen sparing themselves a bigger workload in Karachi by routing Pakistan for 148 in their first innings.
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