Lunch Australia 299 & 91 for 1 (Warner 52*, Labuschagne 34*, Sajid 1-39) need 39 runs to beat Pakistan 313 & 115 (Ayub 33, Hazlewood 4-16, Lyon 3-36)
Chasing 130, after Pakistan were bowled out in their second innings for 115, Australia were 91 for 1 at lunch on day four with Warner on 52 and Marnus Labuschagne 34 not out. They batted with great intent in an unbroken 91-run partnership and scored at over five runs an over. Just before the break, Warner reached his half-century off 56 balls as anticipation built over whether he can hit the winning runs with a comprehensive Australia victory seemingly inevitable.
The surface is playing tricks with rough patches causing variable bounce and sharp turn, but – as shown by Warner and Labuschagne – has appeared easier for batting compared to on day three when 15 wickets fell.
Pakistan have succumbed to Warner’s onslaught with fiery quick Aamer Jamal, their best bowler in the series, surprisingly not used in the 18 overs before lunch.
Coming out to a standing ovation from a 20,000 SCG crowd, Warner had a long embrace with opening partner and close mate Usman Khawaja before entering a guard of honour from Pakistan.
Specialist spinner Sajid Khan opened the bowling and made an immediate impact on the first ball when he beat Khawaja with a sharp delivery that spun past the bat. Sajid revived Pakistan’s slim hopes when he dismissed Khawaja lbw for a duck later in the over in a decision upheld on review.
There was intrigue over whether Warner would dig in or play in his trademark proactive style. His intention was evident when he skipped down the pitch at left-arm quick Mir Hamza and opened his account with a punch through cover as he showcased his sprinting between the wickets to race back for a second. On his 12th delivery, Warner smashed his first boundary when he plundered a wide delivery from Hamza through cover before unfurling his white-ball skills when he reverse swept Sajid to the boundary.
Warner’s approach was nonetheless risky on a tricky surface and he had some luck when he inside edged seamer Hasan Ali past his stumps. He also had an anxious moment when he almost holed out to mid-on off Sajid only to land safely of Jamal who had run back in vain.
Pakistan’s meek batting in their second innings has them on the brink of a 17th straight defeat in Australia. Their hopes of setting Australia a challenging total rested on Mohammad Rizwan and Jamal, who scored 88 and 82 respectively in the first innings.
Quick Josh Hazlewood opened the bowling having set the SCG alight in the penultimate over of day three with the wickets of Saud Shakeel, nightwatcher Sajid Khan and Salman Agha.
After a cautious start, Jamal scored the first boundary of the day when he hammered Hazlewood through backward point. Rizwan lived dangerously as he looked to attack Nathan Lyon, but he had better success sweeping part-time spinner Travis Head. Underlining his blossoming confidence amid a remarkable debut Test series, Jamal unfurled a reverse sweep off Lyon to the boundary as Pakistan’s lead passed 100 runs.
Coming off three straight five-wicket hauls, captain Pat Cummins only brought himself on 45 minutes into the day’s play but he could not break the partnership. Just as Pakistan’s hopes increased, as has happened often during this series, they were rocked by a wicket almost out of nowhere when Rizwan, on 28, inside-edged Lyon to Warner at leg slip.
Jamal decided to go on the attack only to hole out in the next over to Cummins as Lyon finished off the innings by bowling Hasan.
Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth