Pakistan 482 and 181 for 6 dec (Imam 48, Shafiq 41, Holland 3-83) lead Australia 202 by 461 runs
Australia must bat out at least 137 overs or chase 462 if they are to avoid defeat in the first Test in Dubai. The declaration came eight overs after lunch, a spell in which Pakistan showed less intent than they might have done – Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam added 26 runs to the score in this time. When Shafiq holed out at attempting to launch Lyon over the midwicket boundary, Sarfraz Ahmed, instead of going out to bat, called his side in.
Any hopes Australia may have had of running through Pakistan this morning were dashed by a sedate, sensible partnership between Imam-ul-Haq and Haris Sohail. The pair guided their team out of the slightly uncomfortable overnight score of 45 for 3 with a 65-run partnership.
It was hard to say whether the pitch had flattened out considerably since the last two sessions on Tuesday, or if it was just a case of Haris and Imam applying themselves better. They waited for Nathan Lyon’s turn while, as ever, going after Jon Holland.
The first hour took the lead entirely out of territory Australia may have fancied themselves to get with a positive approach. They did, however, hit back with Holland and Marnus Labaschugne dismissing the pair in quick succession, but with the lead having surpassed 450, Pakistan are well on their way.
Both Imam and Haris missed out on half-centuries by falling to tame dismissals. Imam ran down the wicket to Holland but ended up spooning a simple return catch, while Haris missed a long hop from Labuschagne that clattered into his pads in front of the stumps.
Even with the fall of three early wickets on Tuesday, Pakistan knew they had Australia where they wanted them. The addition of a mere 88 runs would have ensured Australia needed a world-record total to chase, and with the deteriorating pitch and the pedigree of Pakistan’s spinners, any total was likely match-winning, thanks to Pakistan’s 280-run lead.
The fall of Imam and Haris brought Shafiq and Babar together, and the pair maintained the tempo the left-handers had set. A six – off Holland, predictably – from Babar set the partnership rolling, and Australia began to leak runs thereafter. The pair rotated the strike regularly, finding boundaries almost every over, speeding towards the imminent declaration. Forty-one came off the last eight overs before lunch, and by the end, even Australia looked to be going through the motions.
They will need all their reserves of concentration if they are to pull off an unlikely draw over the next day and a half.