Hazlewood’s triple-strike outdoes Pakistan quick’s six-for as tourists suffer horror final session collapse
Australia have an almighty fight on their hands to secure a 17th consecutive Test win over Pakistan on home soil, after the tourists claimed a first-innings lead by triggering a batting collapse from the hosts, only to duly suffer the same fate on an engrossing third day at the SCG.
A second six-wicket haul from Jamal on a remarkable first Test tour saw the hosts cede a 14-run first innings deficit after being bowled out for 299, with the last five wickets falling for just 10 runs on either side of the tea break.
To add further drama, Mitchell Starc would repeat his white-hot start on Day 1, sending down the ball of the summer to castle Abdullah Shafique and complete a wretched pair for the opener; before Josh Hazlewood too produced a repeat performance to find captain Shan Masood’s outside edge off just his second ball.
With the tourists 7/68 at stumps and leading by 82 after a triple-wicket maiden from Hazlewood in the day’s penultimate over, there is, remarkably, still hope for Pakistan to claim a consolation victory and avoid a series clean sweep.
On a pitch now showing extreme uneven bounce and chock full of belief with ball in hand, any target of above 150 will be a tough ask for an Australian outfit with a long history of spectacular run chase failures.
But after the tourists crumbled in the face of an inspired surge from the hosts’ much-feared attack, led by the relentless Hazlewood, it took six-wicket hero Aamer Jamal and Mohammad Rizwan to see Pakistan through to stumps.
Whilst they remain, having both scored 80s to take their team to 313 in the first innings, Australia will be nervous.
It wasn’t quite as spectacular as the 33 wickets that fell across two days between India and South Africa in Cape Town, but a 15-wicket day – 11 in the final session – ensured nobody at the SCG would leave fearing the imminent doom of Test cricket.
Resuming on 2/116 after a rain-interrupted Day 2, just five runs came from the first six overs as Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne prepared for a long vigil.
The runs flowed more freely when spinner Sajid Khan was brought into the attack, but the lack of impetus from either batter to up the ante was telling, the pair content to farm singles, be patient and tire out the Pakistan attack.
Adding to the torpidity of play was the latest farcical delay, Smith insisting SCG groundstaff remove a tiny piece of spare tape that had found its way onto the sightscreen tarps – the wait, as Internet wits quickly noted, was longer than the time in which India had lost six wickets for no runs in their Test against South Africa.
But the visitors have shown nothing but resilience since being taken to the cleaners by David Warner on Day 1 in Perth, and it would be Smith who cracked first; having resisted many an expansive shot across the first two hours of play, a wide tempter from Mir Hamza proved too much to resist.
With Masood having just sent Babar to short cover, the champion batter fell straight into the trap, driving Hamza straight to the man for a simple catch – while the ball did hold up in the wicket, Smith’s undisguised disgust at the pitch’s role in his dismissal added to his growing list of petulant displays after being dismissed.
When Labuschagne, who had earlier reached his second painfully slow half-century of the series, fell an over later to a sensational delivery from off-spinner Salman, Australia were in a spot of bother: at 4/187 with the second new ball approaching, the pair’s slow scoring rate even when set had both allowed Pakistan to successfully contain the innings, but put the onus on Mitchell Marsh and Travis Head to up the ante from the get-go.
Neither showed any willingness to do so on a pitch where timing was a constant challenge; even Marsh, having been given a life early after chipping Salman to Ayub at mid-off only to see the chance shelled, was far more circumspect than in his match-turning innings in Melbourne.
Head, meanwhile, showed no sign of being able to turn his disastrous form around.
Scratching and prodding for the better part of an hour, he was at last put out of his misery when a nip-backer from Jamal saw him trapped LBW, the South Australian’s scream of frustration after a review projected the ball to be clipping leg-stump as much at his own horror series as the misfortune of the dismissal.
It fell to Carey to provide the counterpunch Australia needed; freely driving anything full of a length and working the spinners for singles, he even coaxed Marsh out of his shell as the Western Australian began to feast on a tiring attack’s errors in line and length.
Having put on 84 at the better part of four an over, the Australian innings seemed back on track; only for Sajid to skid through Carey’s forward defence on the last ball before tea and clip the wicketkeeper’s leg bail, the ball’s path altered just enough by the barest of contacts with his jumper.
With the partnership broken, Jamal rushed into the breach after tea: desperate to break the shackles, Marsh was undone by the slowness of the pitch to mistime a drive and spoon a catch, while the tail offered even less resistance to the 27-year old sensation.
Pat Cummins was caught unawares by a low full toss that struck him plumb in front, the not out decision quickly overturned by the DRS; Lyon was caught after a scramble at gully by Saud Shakeel to hand Jamal his fifth, with Hazlewood the last to fall two balls later with an edge into the cordon.
On a dream day, the paceman’s greatest threat came from his own teammates, a desperate Shafique haring after a ball in the outfield just as Jamal was charging towards it, sliding in, and very nearly dealing his star quick a serious leg injury.
“I’m over the moon,” Jamal told Fox Cricket after completing his haul.
“[I’m] feeling proud to be representing my country at this level and performing for them.
“This is a wonderful achievement for me.”
But the smiles from the Pakistani camp at a first-innings lead quickly evaporated when Australia’s quicks got their turn to seek revenge on a pitch providing plenty of help.
The surface had nothing to do with the first blow, though.
On Day 1, Shafique had loosely poked at an innocuous Starc ball angling across the right-hander to give catching practice to the cordon. On Day 3, his defence was far compacter, his bat straight and perfectly under his eyeline… and still he was no match for the left-armer’s pearler, swinging back viciously from an off stump line to snake through the smallest gap between bat and pad and death-rattle middle and leg.
When Masood, who had so successfully taken the fight to Australia in Melbourne, fell first ball poking at Hazlewood, Australia sensed a kill – it was to the credit of Ayub, until then suffering through a miserable debut Test, to resist the procession.
A first-day duck, a horror dropped catch and a bizarre moment where an attempted slide in the outfield saw his knee plug badly in a Simon-Jones esque incident was the sum of Ayub’s returns when he walked out to bat; but though his first runs came unconventionally, called leg byes initially by umpire Michael Gough before being retroactively changed to runs, they seemed to calm his nerves anyway.
Brought into the side at the expense of experienced opener Imam-ul-Haq due to his attacking intent, an overpitched Starc offering on the pads gave Ayub the release he needed, clipping behind square for four.
From there, the youngster’s talent was on full display: a vicious cut shot for four past point when Starc dropped short, a remarkable uppercut for six off an even wider offering, and most impressive of all, a crisply pulled four of Cummins’ first ball of the innings.
The introduction of Lyon, though, immediately brought a fresh danger: quick to capitalise the threat of uneven bounce, the spinner had Ayub inside-edging just out of the reach of a diving Labuschagne at short leg, had a review for a catch behind off a Babar play and miss, before a straight skidder trapped the debutant plumb LBW to leave him ruing playing for turn.
Having been 2/56 before the first-gamer fell, the final half-hour would see Australia’s fearsome attack reassert control.
With so many quality options to choose from, it was a bold gambit from Cummins to throw the ball to Head, but the captain’s notion his part-timer’s off-breaks would prove dangerous on a wearing wicket would pay dividends, a straight ball catching a faint nick from Babar well caught by Carey.
In sight of stumps, a Hazlewood triple strike would further tilt the balance Australia’s way.
Shakeel’s crash to earth after a bright start to his Test career continuing with a wide waft at the right-armer’s first ball of his new spell to gift Smith a simple chance at second slip, before nightwatchman Sajid lasted just two balls before a nip-backer knocked back the top of off.
To complete a stunning over, Salman – who had helped rescue the tourists’ first innings – fell for his own second-ball duck, a perfect line from Hazlewood catching the outside edge and giving Warner a present in his farewell Test.
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Having barely taken his boots off after bowling his heart out in the afternoon heat, Jamal wouldn’t have expected to be required again so soon: but with he and Rizwan safely seeing out Hazlewood’s last ball and a final probing over from Lyon, the tourists will hold onto hope they can rise from the ashes on Day 4 and secure a well-deserved win.