Australia v Pakistan: Marnus Labuschagne masterclass leaves visitors on the brink as Mohammad Abbas absence is felt

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A Marnus Labuschagne masterclass at the Gabba.

Marnus Labuschagne registered a big first Test hundred as Pakistan were left staring at a crushing defeat in the series opener against Australia in Brisbane.

The hosts seized a mammoth 340-run lead in the first-innings after Labuschagne’s excellent knock which helped them post a commanding total of 580.

Pakistan had been reduced to 64-3 in their second innings by the time stumps were drawn on Day Three, and they now need a near miracle to avoid what would be a 13th straight Test defeat on Australian soil.

At the end of another day which was dominated by Tim Paine’s men, we look at the key talking points.

Superb Labuschagne stands tall while Smith fails

There was some early joy for Pakistan on Day Three with debutant Naseem Shah dismissing centurion David Warner to bring up his maiden Test dismissal. Soon after, leg-spinner Yasir Shah castled Steve Smith’s stumps to give the visitors another opening.

It was the seventh time Shah had got the better of Smith in six Tests, and suddenly, Pakistan were starting to gain some momentum. However, at the end of a Marnus Labuschagne masterclass a few hours later, the air had totally been sucked out of a deflated Pakistan.

The right-hander continued his incredible resurgence since coming on as a concussion substitute for Smith in the Ashes series, as he romped his way to a maiden Test ton. Forging a valuable stand with half-centurion Mathew Wade along the way, Labuschagne became the second Australian in the innings after Warner to breach the 150-run barrier.

He was equally at ease against both pace and spin in an assured and assertive 185-run marathon at the Gabba. While he was unlucky to miss out on a double-hundred, Labuschagne had stretched Australia’s first-innings lead to beyond 300 by the time he was finally dismissed.

Abbas’ absence felt as Pakistan made to toil

Pakistan’s bowlers were put through the grind for the second day in a row with Labuschagne’s 279-ball vigil putting them through further agony.

While Yasir Shah’s leg-spin did manage to fetch four wickets, it came at the cost of 205 runs. With that, the Pakistan man now holds the infamous distinction of being the only bowler to concede 200 runs in a single Test innings on three separate occasions.

What was abundantly clear, though, was that the visitors could have dearly done with Mohammad Abbas’ services. The senior pacer was inexplicably omitted from the playing XI for the clash, with the visitors instead opting to play Imran Khan.

While Khan did pick a five-wicket haul in a recent warm-up clash, he has not played a Test for more than three years. To pick him over a man who claimed 17 wickets in two Tests against the same opposition in the UAE last year was bold, but at the same time a baffling decision from the Pakistan team management.

Leaving out a man with a Test average of just 18.86 and a strike-rate of 46 is criminal and Pakistan are clearly reaping the fruits of their botched selection.

Aussie pacers leave Pakistan on the brink

Having been left with 17 overs to negotiate before the end of the day’s play, Pakistan’s batsmen would have wanted to avert further damage to an already sinking ship. Unfortunately for the visitors, seven overs was all it took to realise their worst fears with Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins causing early mayhem with the new ball.

Skipper Azhar Ali was the first to fall after being trapped on the pads by a Starc inswinger, with a hopeful review not enough to save the opener. Two overs later, Starc was at it again to pile on further misery on Haris Sohail, whose horrendous tour with the bat continued with another lazy dismissal.

Just like he had done in the first innings, Sohail prodded his bat at a delivery outside off-stump and paid the price with a faint outside edge. Matters went from bad to worse for Pakistan soon after, with first innings half-centurion Asad Shafiq undone by a ripper of a delivery by Cummins.

Shan Masood and Babar Azam ensured there were no further hiccups for Pakistan with a promising stand, but there’s now plenty of work for them still to do if the visitors are to avoid an innings defeat.

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