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

Tea Pakistan 68 for 1 trail Australia 318 (Labuschagne 63, Jamal 3-64) by 250 runs

Opener Abdullah Shafique defied sustained pressure from Australia’s attack on a tricky MCG surface to bat through the middle session on day two as Pakistan continued their fightback in the Boxing Day Test.

After bowling Australia out for 318 by lunch, Pakistan batted sedately in the second session and overcame several nervous moments against Australia’s miserly bowlers.

But they should be satisfied with their response having being bundled out for 89 in their second innings in the first Test in Perth.

Pakistan started positively with openers Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq both scoring off their first deliveries to indicate that they might play a more proactive brand as promised ahead of the series by captain Shan Masood.

But they were soon anchored to the crease by accurate new ball bowling from Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood as the runs dried up. Shafique was able to occasionally counterattack, but Imam was in a rut and pinned down by a good length from Pat Cummins who bowled around the wicket.

Having survived the quicks, the openers were confronted by offspinner Nathan Lyon who has been basking in adulation since taking his 500th Test wicket in the series-opener.

Lyon immediately caused havoc and almost inevitably ended Imam’s stonewall after enticing an edge through a turning delivery from around the wicket.

Masood overcame a hit on the helmet from Hazlewood to make it through to tea and continue an impressive day so far from Pakistan.

Pakistan earlier clawed back in a prolonged first session by taking regular wickets and their quicks were backed up by a much better fielding effort.

After several shoddy dropped catches so far this series, they hung on to tough chances in the outfield while recalled wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan produced a spectacular one-handed take diving to his right to dismiss counterpart Alex Carey.

But having enjoyed favourable bowling conditions, after Masood elected to field, Pakistan rued inconsistencies from their quicks while 52 extras bumped up Australia’s total and might prove costly.

Mitchell Marsh was aggressive from the start•Getty Images

Pakistan were unable to dismiss Australia for their desired total of around 250 in a chaotic morning session.

Play started 30 minutes early after only 66 overs were bowled on a rain-interrupted day one. Resuming at 187 for 3, with sunshine emerging from thick cloud covering, Australia appeared to be moving into a strong position with Marnus Labuschagne, who has enjoyed a relatively lean year in Test cricket, notching his half-century and Travis Head counterattacking in trademark fashion.

But spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi snapped out of his funk with a full and wide delivery that enticed a thick edge from Head and was well caught by Salman Agha at second slip.

Having made twin half-centuries in the first Test, Mitchell Marsh’s confidence was immediately obvious after he skipped down the wicket to dismissively smash left-arm quick Mir Hamza over mid-off for a boundary.

His infectious energy livened the game and chaos ensued when seamer Hasan Ali had him dismissed off consecutive deliveries only for Marsh to successfully review on both occasions.

Marsh received mock applause from the crowd when he defended the next delivery before rediscovering his rhythm by smashing offspinner Salman for a straight six.

Pakistan appeared to be playing a waiting game before the second new ball, but fired-up quick Aamer Jamal stepped up. He had Labuschagne caught at first slip, where Shafique clutched the ball tightly in a relief having dropped a sitter to reprieve opener David Warner early on day one.

Pakistan’s new ball bowling has been generally lacklustre through the series so far, but they summoned fire after taking the second new ball and wickets fell regularly including Marsh for 41.

During his short stay at the crease, Starc joined Richie Benaud, Shane Warne and Mitchell Johnson as the only Australian players to have made 2000 Test runs and taken 200 wickets.

Australia’s tail made some useful runs to lift Australia past 300 in a total that appears highly competitive on a surface that is still providing assistance for the bowlers.

After such gloomy conditions on Boxing Day, the marquee date on the Australian summer calendar, day two has been played in perfect conditions with expectations of bad weather not yet eventuating.

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth

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