Pakistan top order crumble as Australia maintain control on Day 3

Marnus Labuschagne cashed in on his maiden Test century, starring on the third day of the first Test in Brisbane. He fell short of what would’ve been a deserved double ton, but the day belonged to him, and in turn Australia, who turned the screws on Pakistan reducing them to 64 for 3. Australia were bowled out for a massive 580, with a lead of 340 before the Australian pacemen’s pace and angles turned out to be too good for Pakistan, who trail by 276.

When play resumed after Tea with Labuschagne unbeaten on 171, he seemed on course to get to his maiden double century as runs came by thick and fast. However, he fell prey to Shaheen Afridi, who struck in quick succession after Tim Paine edged one that angled back in, and scooped an easy catch to Babar Azam at gully. Australia got as many runs as they could thereafter before being bowled out. Pakistan had 17 overs to negotiate before stumps, and they were subject to a vicious spell from Starc.

Starc, in his second over, set up Azhar Ali with one angling in that straightened out after having bowled full and wide to him in the lead-up. Haris Sohail was guilty of carbon-copying his poor shot from the first innings to flirt with a short one to get an edge to Paine, that he should’ve left. Pat Cummins’s extra bounce did Asad Shafiq in as Pakistan were falling apart. Josh Hazlewood was brilliant, changing angles, maintaining tight lines and varying lengths, to create a couple of half-chances. Masood was peppered with short balls that caused him trouble in the first innings but he, along with Babar Azam, ensured no further damage was done, unbeaten on 27 and 20 respectively.

Labuschagne did bulk of the scoring in the session, with the display of a 360-degree game. His inventiveness, ability of pick the lengths skilfully and footwork shone through his knock that spanned 279 deliveries on Saturday (November 23). As the ball got softer, the spinners got a bit of turn through the middle session, with part-timer Haris getting the breakthroughs. In-form Matthew Wade played the perfect attacking cameo, using his feet well and reaching a half-century. He went on to share a swift century stand with Labuschagne before Haris struck to get Wade. Although the spinners operated most of the session, Afridi and Imran Khan bowled brief spells. Yet, Naseem Shah only bowled the four overs in the day, during which, he picked up his maiden Test wicket of David Warner.

He was one of the two wickets, alongside Steve Smith, to have fallen in the morning session. Pakistan’s bowlers learnt their lessons from a deflating second day’s play where Australia scored 313 runs. They straightened their lines and bowled with a lot of discipline early on. The runs dried up, especially for Warner, who bizarrely added just three runs to his overnight score of 151 before he fell just before the end of the first hour. Labuschagne, though, kept the scoreboard ticking with a fine mix of attack and caution. As fate would have it, it was Naseem who picked up Warner for his maiden Test wicket, for the second time. Only, this time, Naseem didn’t overstep. It was a bouncer that rose into the left-hander, who was caught in a tangle to get a bottom-edge that was pouched by the ‘keeper.

Smith was getting rid of all the anticipation of a shot in the middle and dispatched Yasir Shah for a boundary off his first ball, but had his stumps knocked over. Smith played across the line, was done in by flight and the ball dipped on him to knock him over. Yasir then had Labuschagne trapped leg-before for 92, but a review from the batsman showed an inside edge. Thereafter, Labuschagne was unstoppable, with the third day of play belonging to him.

Brief scores: Pakistan 240 & 64/3 (Shan Masood 27*, Babar Azam 20*; Mitchell Stars 2-25) trail Australia 580 (Marnus Labuschagne 185, David Warner 154; Yasir Shah 4-205, Haris Sohail 2-75) by 276 runs.