Two players put their hands up for Pakistan on a rainy day three in the second Test, yet hosts Australia were marching towards a comprehensive innings win and a series whitewash before stumps were drawn at the Adelaide Oval.
Having seen Australia put up a mammoth 589-3 in their first innings, Pakistan fought through the form of Babar Azam and an unlikely batting hero in Yasir Shah, but they were still staring at a crushing defeat at the end of it all.
The visitors were made to follow-on after being bundled out for 302 and they had been reduced to 39-3 before rain stopped play on the third day.
Babar’s resistance, along with Shah’s, were the bright sparks for Pakistan on a gloomy day and they both feature predominantly in our talking points.
Babar misses out on back-to-backs tons
When Pakistan started the day on 96-6, little did anyone expect them to reach 200, let alone 300. However, Australia’s bowlers were frustrated for the greater part of two sessions with Babar Azam leading a stubborn resistance from the visitors.
The 25-year-old had notched up his second Test ton in the previous clash in Brisbane and he looked in supreme touch once again as he brought out his flowing cover drives at the Adelaide Oval.
The right-hander was flawless in his footwork and execution as he raced away to the 90s and a second consecutive century seemed to be on the cards.
Unfortunately for Babar though, his soaring confidence became his undoing in the end with an attempted drive on the up against Mitchell Starc resulting in his dismissal on 97.
It would have been a well-deserved ton for Babar who struck 11 exquisite boundaries prior to his dismissal in a 132-ball stay at the crease. While the disappointment and agony was evident on his face, his latest showing was another sign that he is starting to blossom into an elite Test batsman after an inconsistent start to his career.
Yasir shows Pakistan’s batsman the way with battling ton
While Babar was unlucky to miss out on a third Test ton, there was no shortage of luck on Yasir Shah’s side with the leg-spinner going on to register his maiden century.
The senior Pakistan bowler has averaged more than 100 in the series with the ball in hand, but he added another 100 to his name for all the right reasons this time. He did have his fair share of luck along the way with Australia’s fielders including skipper Tim Paine giving him multiple reprieves on the way, particularly off the bowling of Nathan Lyon.
Shah, however, was unfazed and showed the value of playing with a straight bat by registering his highest first-class score. He first forged a 105-run stand with Babar for the seventh wicket before adding 87 runs for the ninth wicket alongside Mohammad Abbas.
The 33-year-old has been gutsy with the bat all series despite his bowling woes, and he duly celebrated in style once he brought up the special landmark.
It was only the third time in history that a visiting batsman had registered a Test ton in Australia while batting in the No8 position. Only England’s Matt Prior (2011) and West Indies’ Gerry Alexander (1961) have been able to do it before.
His innings also put Pakistan’s top-order batsmen to shame with the leggie now the second-highest runscorer (181) for the side in the series behind Babar (202).
Hazlewood puts hosts in sights of innings win
Despite the bravado shown by Babar and Shah, Pakistan still fell 287 runs short of Australia’s first innings total and Tim Paine had no hesitation in enforcing the follow-on.
Once again, under the Adelaide lights, Pakistan’s top-order came undone against pace with Josh Hazlewood making the pink-ball sing to his tunes.
The Australia seamer dismissed opener Imam-ul-Haq, and more importantly, Babar Azam cheaply to put the hosts on course for a second straight innings victory.
With his customary tact of bowling in the channel just outside the off-stump, Hazlewood got the better of Babar for the sixth time in his career.
The Pakistan start was forced to fend at the delivery and paid the price in the form of an outside edge which was gobbled up comfortably by Paine.
Meanwhile, skipper Azhar Ali failed to fire once again with the right-hander falling for nine for the second time in the match. It could have been a lot worse for Pakistan if rain hadn’t brought them respite, with Australia’s fast bowlers looking in menacing form under the lights.
Weather delays might now be the only hope for the visitors in Adelaide, with most of their batsmen failing to show a spine. And probably Yasir Shah.
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