Stumps Day 3:
Pakistan 9d/443 (Azhar Ali 205*, Sohail Khan 65)
Australia 2/278 (DA Warner 143, UT Khawaja 95*)
Due to circumstances beyond my control I printed the World XI before conferring with my other international selectors.
Changes to the original side are as follows:-
In: Jack Russell (Eng) – keeper replacing Geoff Griffen who failed an ICC test.
Vasbert Drakes (WI) – replaces Nathan Lyon who was regarded as inferior to Graeme Swann.
Chairman’s comments “We had struggled to find a wicket keeper who matched the criteria but discussions with the rulers of International cricket (BCCI) agreed that Jack Russell met all the points covered in the MOA. We also had discussions with Simon Katich”.
Rain, or should I say drizzle, curtailed the start of play again which now certainly leaves only Pakistan capable of winning the game. They bat on.
Starc finally gets a wicket when he has Mohammad Amir (29) caught at the wicket by Wade. Pakistan 7/317.
Pakistan push on and Azhar Ali continues his mammoth innings and reaches a wonderful 150 and he is receiving good support Sohail Khan.
I would suggest that they will continue batting until just before lunch and then send the Aussies in. Sohail reaches his highest test score ever (47) and then reaches his fifty with a great shot through mid-wicket. They are slaughtering the bowling and the 100 partnership comes from 106 balls.
The Australian bowlers have been hit to all parts of the ground and their lack of a fifth bowler was never more evident than today. At lunch Pakistan 7/433 with Azhar 196 and Sohail 65. They have added 123 runs in this first session.
Well, Australia get a wicket in possibly the only way they could a run out! Sohail (65) is found short of his ground. Pakistan 8/436.
Azhar Ali reaches his 200 from 362 balls in 578 minutes with 19 fours. A truly great innings that will go down in the annals of Boxing Day cricket. He has not made a mistake throughout this innings that has gone on for nearly two and a half days.
Wahab Riaz (1) has a slash at Hazlewood and is caught and bowled. Pakistan declare at 9/443. Azhar Ali not out 205. Hazlewood 3/50 and Bird 3/113.
As we suggested earlier this morning only one side can win and it is not Australia. With two and two third days to play it will be interesting to see how a very tired Australian team react to so long in the field.
Pakistan looked eager when they came out and the first part of the Australian innings could determine the fate of the match.
Amir and Sohail bowled well early but the batsmen, Renshaw and Warner, were resolute in their defence.
The introduction of Yasir did not take long after the initial good bowling from the medium pacers. Warner treated him with contempt but Renshaw was struggling. It was not surprising when he tried to hit across the line with a windy-woof and was bowled. It did not look good and he certainly would not have got a tick for India playing a shot like that.
Renshaw 10 Australia 1/46.
From there on in it was the Warner and Khawaja show. The Executioner and The Swordsman. It was a wonderful session of beautiful stroke making from two different stylists. The wicket was playing so easily that the ball was sitting up just waiting to be hit.
Such was their control that the score raced along to 1/131 at tea with Warner 77 and Khawaja 39. A beautiful exhibition of batting from the Australian duo.
Not long after tea Warner (81) is bowled by a ripper from Wahab that moved just slightly away from him. NO BALL! A severe blow to the Pakistanis who are desperate for a wicket.
There is no counter-attack from the Australians who are keen to consolidate again.
For all you mathematicians out there do you know todays date? 28/12/16. A similar statistic will occur for the next three years fascinating isn’t it.
Sat in the outer for the second half of the day with the blood stained angel who is still smarting over the first Saturday in October. His grandfather represented Victoria at cricket. BSA also played with South Melbourne. Naturally the parlous state of Australian cricket was our main topic of discussion after relegating October to the dust bin (not my words).
Warner brings up a fine century (103) with 13 fours of 103 balls. A classical Warner innings. Khawaja’s fifty comes up in the next over from 88 balls with seven fours. As is his want he did it with the minimum of fuss, composure and ease.
The wicket is doing nothing and is probably one of the most placid wickets I have seen in Melbourne over the last 70 years. Yasir in particular is being treated with disdain and is going for 7.5 runs an over.
A DRS challenge by Pakistan on Warner for caught behind sees Warner walk half way to the boundary turn around and come back and turn around again when Pakistan get the verdict. Warner 144 seventeen fours and one six of 143 balls. Another wonderful knock witnessed by the crowd today. Australia 2/244 and Wahab has his first wicket after a troubling day for him at the crease.
Khawaja (95) and Smith (10) comfortably see out the day and Australia are only 165 runs in arrears with two days play left.
What looked like a win for Pakistan only has been turned slightly on its head and if Australia can continue with this form tomorrow and be 227 ahead by tomorrow night then Australia could be the only team with a chance of winning.
Such are the vagaries of cricket.