Rawalpindi, March 7 (IANS) Led by Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, who both struck half-centuries, Australia’s batters flourished on a flat wicket to cut Pakistan’s lead to just 27 runs on the fourth day of the first Test here on Monday.
In reply to Pakistan’s massive first innings of 476 for 4, Australia, playing their first Test in Pakistan since 1998, reached stumps at 449 for 7 with Mitchell Starc batting on 12 and skipper Pat Cummins unbeaten on four to trail by just 27 runs.
On a day where only two sessions of play were possible, Pakistan managed to pick up five wickets. Though it was bright and sunny in Rawalpindi, overnight rains had left several wet patches on the field.
Play finally started after the lunch break and Australia, commencing the day from an overnight score of 271/2, continued to make merry on a flat track. The overnight rain had little effect on the pitch and as a result, the toil continued for the bowlers.
Marnus Labuschagne looked in a hurry to get to his hundred, smashing three fours in three overs but was undone by a brilliant delivery from Shaheen Afridi. Coming around the wicket, he forced a shot and the Aussie batter edged it to the slip — becoming the second batter in the innings to fall in the nervous 90s.
Pakistan started with pace and spin but soon spinners started operating at both ends and did a great job at drying the runs up. The move eventually paid off as Green, two runs away from a fifty, tried to sweep his way to the milestone but only managed to top-edge it to short fine-leg.
Ali soon got Smith as well with the negative line ploy outside leg stump, as Smith too tried to sweep his way out but Rizwan took a good reflex catch behind the stumps. Naseem Shah then got in on the action and rattled Alex Carey’s stumps for 19.
The light metres soon came out and the umpires decided to take the players off the field due to bad light, with Australia 27 runs behind and with one day’s play remaining.
Brief scores: Pakistan 476/4 decl. (Azhar Ali 185, Imam-ul-Haq 157; Pat Cummins 1-62) lead Australia 449/7 (Usman Khawaja 97, David Warner 68, Marnus Labuschagne 90, Steve Smith 78; Nauman Ali 4-107) by 27 runs.