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

Pakistan 264 and 129 for 3 (Masood 60, Babar 35*, Cummins 2-28) need 188 runs to beat Australia 318 and 262 (Marsh 96, Carey 53, Hamza 4-32, Afridi 4-76)

Pakistan captain Shan Masood hit an aggressive half-century before falling late in the second session on day four, as Pakistan’s slim hopes in the Boxing Day Test rests with Babar Azam who defied Australia’s attack and survived an early onslaught from nemesis Pat Cummins.

Chasing a daunting 317, Babar reached tea on 35 not out while Saud Shakeel was unbeaten on 10. Pakistan still require 188 runs to end a 15-Test losing streak in Australia and keep the series alive.

The MCG surface has somewhat settled in sunny conditions, but there is still seam movement and variable bounce for the bowlers to exploit. After a superb five-wicket haul in Pakistan’s first innings, Cummins again starred with 2 for 28 from nine overs.

Pakistan made a disastrous start when opener Abdullah Shafique was dismissed for 4 by quick Mitchell Starc before lunch. Masood then successfully overturned a lbw decision after lunging forward to offspinner Nathan Lyon.

Opener Imam-ul-Haq again started slowly and didn’t score until his 18th delivery. He almost fell on the stroke of lunch when he spooned a return catch to Starc, who couldn’t hang on to a tough chance.

Imam resumed after the interval showing more intent and nudged the ball around to rotate the strike. But he was all at sea when Cummins went around the wicket and he was trapped lbw in a decision upheld by DRS.

Babar readied to renew his battle with Cummins but faced a thorough examination initially from quick Josh Hazlewood who had a loud shout for lbw as Australia unsuccessfully reviewed.

There was much anticipation over how Babar would confront Cummins having fallen to him in two consecutive innings. Babar in Perth had been worked over before nicking off and he was clean bowled by a gem of a delivery from Cummins late on day two in Melbourne.

He again had a tough time against Cummins and was comprehensively beaten by consecutive deliveries on a perfect length. But he survived and shortly after pounced on a rare stray Hazlewood delivery to hit a gorgeous boundary through midwicket.

An increasingly confident Babar went down the track and whacked Lyon down the ground for a belligerent boundary. He was able to better handle Cummins, who returned into the attack 30 minutes before tea.

Masood initially played Lyon mostly along the ground before charging down the track for a boundary through the on-side. It was a similar tactic Masood used during his half-century in the first innings before he holed out.

With his father and brother watching on in the grandstand, Masood was in control and also attacked the quicks to reach his half-century in 57 balls. But Cummins once again provided the breakthrough when Masood edged to Steve Smith, who took a sharp catch low down at second slip.

Shan Masood again played with good intent•Getty Images

The 61-run partnership between Masood and Babar gave Pakistan hope after they were earlier left frustrated by Australia’s lower order.

Resuming at 187 for 6, with a lead of 241, Australia added valuable runs with wicketkeeper Alex Carey steering his team into a strong position with a half-century.

Having been dropped early in Australia’s World Cup title run, Carey entered the summer under some pressure but batted calmly and received support from the tail as their lead powered past 300 runs.

Carey struck his first half-century since the first Ashes Test in Birmingham with a gorgeous square drive boundary before he fell lbw to left-arm quick Mir Hamza.

Hamza was held back until the second new ball was taken 80 minutes into the day’s play after a starring role on day three, where he knocked over David Warner and Travis Head in consecutive deliveries as part of a four-wicket haul.

Having started the series sluggishly, Pakistan spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi found form with an indefatigable performance to finish with 4 for 76 from 27 overs.

Pakistan may still end up ruing the drop of Mitchell Marsh on 20 at first slip on day two. Marsh made a dejected Pakistan pay with 96 off 130 balls to continue his rich form since being recalled to the team in Headingley during the Ashes.

He combined in a 153-run partnership with Steven Smith to rescue Australia from a precarious 16 for 4.

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth

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