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

Tea Australia 114 for 2 (Khawaja 42, Hasan 1-21) vs Pakistan

Recalled seamer Hasan Ali removed Australia opener Usman Khawaja and led an improved Pakistan bowling effort at a gloomy MCG on day one before rain interrupted the Boxing Day Test.

Amid increasingly dark conditions, with rain and thunderstorms forecast in the afternoon, Marnus Labuschagne and Steven Smith were in survival mode in the second session against accurate Pakistan bowling on a surface offering movement.

Labuschagne, who has struggled for form recently, battled to 14 off 47 balls, while Smith made just 2 off 26 balls before tea was called early in what looms as a significant delay.

With a black cloud hanging over the ground Labuschagne was clearly displeased about play continuing despite the light towers being switched on.

But rain finally fell and play was suspended after drinks with Australia having only scored 24 runs in 15 overs.

After Pakistan’s quicks failed to take a wicket in the first session, Hasan justified his selection with a probing spell after lunch and he was rewarded by having Khawaja caught at second slip with a delivery that zipped off the wicket.

Hasan was one of three changes for Pakistan, who opted to again field an all out pace attack with left-armer Mir Hamza also selected.

Stormy skies above the MCG•Cricket Australia/Getty Images

Hasan found an accurate length outside the off stump and bowled in sync with spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi, who threatened by bowling across the right-handed batters and he occasionally made the ball jump off the wicket.

It was a better performance from Afridi after a sluggish effort before lunch on the back of match figures of 2 for 172 in the first Test. But he struggled for pace in what has been a bane for Afridi for some time.

Pakistan will feel buoyed with their fightback after they almost went through the first session without a wicket following captain Shan Masood’s decision to bowl on a pitch with six-seven millimetres of grass amid overcast conditions.

After a 360-run pummelling in the first Test on a spicy Optus Stadium surface, Pakistan’s hopes of a bounce back rested with early inroads. But they started disastrously when opener David Warner was given an early life on two after a horrific dropped catch at first slip by Abdullah Shafique off Afridi.

Pakistan’s spirit dropped despite an encouraging new ball spell from Hamza. Having taken just two wickets in three previous Test matches, Hamza didn’t bowl quickly but impressed by dangerously nipping the ball both ways, including several menacing late in-swinging yorkers.

But Pakistan’s bowlers weren’t able to consistently hit the right areas as Khawaja and Warner built a 90-run partnership.

Much like the build-up in Perth, Khawaja came into the match under the microscope after the ICC denied his application to display a logo to raise awareness of humanitarian issues.

But he battled calmly as Australia closed in on a wicketless opening session for the second straight Test match until Warner fell to spinning allrounder Agha Salman in the last over before lunch.

In the penultimate match of his illustrious Test career, Warner on 38 drove loosely in a rash stroke to be caught at slip and Pakistan continued the momentum after the break.

All eyes have been on Melbourne’s infamously fickle weather after heavy rain lashed the Victorian capital during the past couple of days. Sun occasionally shone during an uninterrupted first session, but inclement weather threatens to cut short the biggest date in the Australian cricket summer.

A crowd of 70,000 fans has been tipped in a figure that would surpass the entire attendance over four days for the rebranded Perth Test.

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth

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