Recent Match Report – Australia vs Pakistan 2nd Test 2023/24

Lunch Australia 318 and 6 for 2 lead Pakistan 264 (Shafique 62, Masood 54, Rizwan 42, Cummins 5-48, Lyon 4-73) by 60 runs

Australia captain Pat Cummins continued his starring performance, but Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne were dismissed by Pakistan spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi on the stroke of lunch on day three as a topsy-turvy Boxing Day Test hung in the balance.

Trailing by 54 runs on the first innings, Pakistan hit back on a challenging MCG surface in overcast conditions after Afridi had Khawaja caught behind for a duck on the second delivery of the innings.

Afridi shrugged off a sluggish series to also remove Labuschagne on the last delivery before lunch after the batter tickled a delivery down the leg side.

Before their three-over burst with the ball, Pakistan’s lower-order kept them in the contest and they were ultimately dismissed for 264. An irrepressible Cummins finished with 5 for 48 from 20 overs as Australia gained a handy lead.

Having dismissed Australia for 318, Pakistan had mustered a strong reply through half-centuries from opener Abdullah Shafique and skipper Shan Masood before a collapse of 5 for 64 proved costly.

Play on day three had been delayed by 45 minutes due to drizzle underlining Melbourne’s fickle weather with no rain having been forecast.

Resuming at 194 for 6, trailing by 124, Pakistan’s hopes seemingly rested on recalled wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan, having been contentiously overlooked for the first Test with selectors sticking with incumbent wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed.

He and Aamer Jamal had come together late on day two with Pakistan reeling at 170 for 6 having been ripped apart by a magical spell from Cummins.

Before the second new ball was available, Rizwan went for his shots as he attacked short-pitched bowling. In contrast, Jamal, who has a first-class average of almost 20, was intent on survival but provided dogged support as he soaked up most of the deliveries early in the day’s play.

Jamal wore several menacing short-pitched deliveries from Cummins on the body, including a painful blow to his back which required medical attention. He scored just four runs off his first 50 balls before pulling a short delivery from quick Josh Hazlewood to the boundary.

The lack of strike seemed to unsettle Rizwan, who had been aggressive from the get go marked by an audacious six off Cummins over deep backward square late on day two.

Cummins, reinforcing his tactical nous, placed an extra catcher on the off side and executed the plan to perfection. He tempted Rizwan on 42 with a full and wide delivery that was hit straight to David Warner who had just been moved to short cover.

Afridi decided to go for broke against offspinner Nathan Lyon and used his feet while also unfurling the slog sweep. He then bludgeoned quick Mitchell Starc for a couple of boundaries to reach 20 for the first time in his Test career.

Afridi shortly after was trapped on the crease by a quicker Lyon delivery in a lbw dismissal that was upheld on DRS.

But Australia were left frustrated with Jamal finally looking to attack and successfully whacking Lyon for a boundary on the leg side.

It was left to Cummins, who immediately bowled a brute of a delivery that nastily climbed on Hasan Ali before clean bowling him with a pearler that jagged back sharply reminiscent of his stunning dismissal of talisman Babar Azam late on day two.

Cummins completed his 10th five-wicket haul in his Test career to further burnish his growing legacy.

Lyon had Mir Hamza stumped to finish with 4 for 73 off 18.5 overs in his first match since claiming his 500th wicket in the series opener. Jamal was left stranded on 33 not out, but continued an impressive start to his Test career.

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth

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