Australia concedes 151-run first-innings lead before hosts go to stumps at 38 for loss
The third day was an occasion for Australia's batting to prove to the world, and to itself, that it had overcome its woes against spin bowling.
It had every right to be confident: It had a good start (113 for no loss) the previous day, it had David Warner, who had dictated the bowling by racing to 75 in 77 balls, it was batting on wicket that, apart from couple of rough patches, was still a placid track, and, crucially, it was up against a group of bowlers who had yet to play ten Tests between them.
In six hours, it was all doom and gloom for Australia, as it capitulated again on a slow and low pitch to be bowled out for 303, conceding a 151-run lead to Pakistan, which became 189 as Pakistan ended the day at 38 for no loss in its second innings.
The horror show started with Chris Rogers. Rogers might have played over 250 first-class matches but these pitches are still alien to him. He should have known that instead of a horizontal bat the vertical bat is always a better option in these conditions. Rahat Ali’s short delivery rose less than waist high. Rogers tried to execute a cut, but the ball hit the bottom edge and crashed on to his stumps. Australia had lost its first wicket at 128.
Warner might have been fluent on the second evening, but the in-out field Pakistan employed on the third morning prevented his boundary hitting. It was a deliberate tactic to frustrate Warner but he did not cave in as he nudged, deflected and swept to accumulate his runs.
And once he moved into the 90s, it was vintage Warner. It took him only 12 balls to score the next ten runs. Warner's ninth Test century had come off just 125 balls and, importantly, he was driving Australia towards Pakistan’s first-innings total comfortably. His century, interestingly, was Warner’s third in as many innings after the three-figure scores in each innings against South Africa in Cape Town in Australia's last Test in March this year.
But as Warner excelled, the others faltered. Doolan had made a fine century in the tour match, but here he was tested by some tight bowling, most of it aimed at the stumps. It restricted his scoring options and eventually led to a suicidal run out when he had made just 5.
Michael Clarke, among the finest players of spin in the modern era, was deceived by flight as he was caught neither back nor front to pop a catch to short leg after scoring 2.
Steve Smith met the first ball he faced from Yasir Shah nearly four meters down the pitch and whipped it through midwicket for four. Along with Warner, the pair made batting look easy as they scored at will, adding 48 in just 70 balls to take Australia past the 200-run mark.
But on the stroke of lunch, Smith cut a long hop straight to point after scoring 22. It capped a brilliant session for Pakistan in which it picked up four wickets for 75 runs.
The extended lunch break, after an extended morning session, seemed to break Warner’s concentration as, soon after resumption, he tried a cut-glide to one from Shah that spun sharply out of the rough to hit his middle stump.
Haddin could not repeat his Ashes heroics as he attempted an over-ambitious drive against the second new ball, only to have the ball go through the huge gap between bat and bad. Haddin became the third batsman in the top seven to be dismissed in the mid-20s, and Australia was on its way down by this stage.
In his debut innings, Mitchell Marsh looked extremely composed as he rotated the strike nicely and showed a good defence. He had reached 27 before an elementary mistake cost him his wicket: Marsh played across the line to a straighter one from Zulfiqar Babar and was adjudged lbw after a referral.
Mitchell Johnson made a resilient 37, slogging a few to the leg-side boundary, but eventually ran out of partners and holed out.
Speaking after the day’s play, Warner felt Australia's batsmen and not the pitch was to blame. “The conditions were tough but we didn’t make it easy for ourselves. Look at the run-out chance we gave. In Test match cricket you should not be getting run out,” he said.
“There is a bit of turn there but it’s turn that’s outside the area and to hit that rough, it is wide of the stumps. I don’t think the pitch has changed too much since day 1, it’s consistent. It slows up with the old ball.”
Warner was still optimistic that Australia would be able to conjure a win despite trailing by 187 runs with two days left to play. But the way Australia batted in its first innings and given its record against spin, Pakistan might already have enough in the bank to prevent it.
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