MELBOURNE, Australia: Mitchell Marsh and Steve Smith have put Australia back in command at Tea after Pakistani pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi destroyed Australian top order on Day 3 of the second Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Thursday.
Australia were reeling at 16/4 but Marsh and Smith safely guided them to 107/4 at Tea. Earlier, Pat Cummins took five wickets while Nathan Lyon took four to dismiss Pakistan for 264.
In the ongoing Boxing Day Test, Pat Cummins continued to showcase his brilliance as Australia’s captain. However, the balance of the game teetered as Pakistan’s Shaheen Shah Afridi claimed crucial wickets of Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne just before lunch on day three. Afridi’s strikes set a topsy-turvy tone, shifting momentum as Pakistan fought back from a 54-run deficit in the first innings.
Afridi’s early dismissal of Khawaja, caught behind on the second delivery of the innings, initiated Pakistan’s resurgence on a challenging Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) pitch under overcast skies. Following this, Labuschagne fell prey to Afridi’s delivery down the leg side, leaving Australia in a precarious position.
Despite Cummins’ exceptional bowling, securing five wickets for 48 runs and enabling Australia to gain a lead after dismissing Pakistan for 264, the game swayed unpredictably. Earlier, Pakistan’s lower order put up a commendable fight, maintaining their contention in the match.
The day’s play had a delayed start due to drizzle, highlighting Melbourne’s erratic weather despite no rain predictions. Pakistan, starting at 194 for 6, pinned their hopes on Mohammad Rizwan, who had been controversially overlooked in the previous Test. Rizwan, alongside Aamer Jamal, aimed to steady Pakistan’s innings after Cummins’ impactful bowling on day two.
While Jamal focused on survival, enduring numerous deliveries and facing challenges from Cummins’ aggressive pace, Rizwan took a more attacking approach, particularly against short-pitched bowling. However, a strategic move by Cummins, altering the field, led to Rizwan’s dismissal on 42 as he fell into the trap, offering a catch to David Warner.
Afridi showcased aggression, challenging Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Starc, but succumbed to Lyon’s quicker delivery in an lbw dismissal. Jamal, though, managed to attack Lyon, adding valuable runs before Cummins’ relentless bowling removed Hasan Ali and completed his five-wicket haul, further solidifying his Test legacy.
Lyon contributed with four dismissals, including the stumping of Mir Hamza, capping his return after claiming his 500th wicket in the series opener. Meanwhile, Jamal concluded unbeaten on 33, continuing to impress in his burgeoning Test career.