Pakistan and Australia head into the third and final Test in Lahore with the series locked and all to play for but the home side will feel they have the momentum after pulling off a brilliant rescue act in Karachi.
Inspired by a majestic 196 by captain Babar Azam and an unbeaten 104 by Mohammad Rizwan, Pakistan’s 171.4-over stonewall was the longest any team has batted in the fourth innings of a Test, barring England’s epic 654/5 in the ‘Timeless Test’ against South Africa in Durban in 1939.
“(Batting) five sessions in a Test match against a world-class team like Australia is no joke,” said Rizwan. “This match is definitely a benchmark for our team to rise above.”
Australia spoke of disappointment in falling three wickets short of victory but may quietly feel relieved to leave Karachi with the series tied. Pakistan were motoring toward what would have been a record 506-run chase for victory until spinner Nathan Lyon dismissed Babar and all-rounder Faheem Ashraf off consecutive balls.
The wicket at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium will be something of an unknown as it hosts its first Test since 2009.
Australia’s inability to close out matches from dominant positions on Day V has become a problem.
They have now racked up five such failures in their last 19 Tests, having let England off the hook in Sydney during the recent Ashes and India twice in the 2-1 series defeat in the previous home summer.
While Australian media questioned whether skipper Pat Cummins might have enforced the follow-on rather than making his team bat again, the visitors’ sloppy fielding on Day V ultimately paved the way for disappointment.
Pakistani selectors have named uncapped spinner Asif Afridi and wicketkeeper Mohammad Haris in the white-ball squads for the three ODIs and one-off T20I against Australia.
(Written with agency inputs)