Nathan Lyon roared back into form and captured three wickets as Pakistan slumped to 91 for five on the fifth afternoon of the second Test at the MCG, a collapse that put Australia on target for a series-clinching victory. (SCORECARD)
Opening batsman Azhar Ali was unbeaten on 34 and wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed one not out, with Pakistan still trailing Australia’s first innings total by 90 runs with 37 overs to survive and save the rain-affected match.
Pakistan resumed their second innings after lunch on 6-1, and lost Babar Azam for three with the first ball of the session when he was trapped lbw by pace spearhead Mitchell Starc.
Azhar and Younus Khan dug in for an hour but Lyon removed the latter two overs after the drinks break for 24, with the veteran duped by the bounce and prodding to Peter Handscomb at short leg, where he took a sharp catch just above the grass.
Captain Misbah-ul-Haq was out two balls later, undone by an appalling sweep-shot off the spinner that left Pakistan reeling at 63-4.
Misbah telegraphed the manner of his dismissal with his first shot off Lyon, then completed the feat on the second, top-edging a wide delivery towards a running Nic Maddinson, who took a leisurely catch at short fine leg.
Lyon grabbed his third victim late in the session when Asad Shafiq deflected a catch off his body for Handscomb to take a fine catch at leg.
Pakistan’s batsmen have shown themselves liable to crumble this year and memories of their stunning collapse in the second test against New Zealand in Hamilton last month will be fresh as they pass a nervous tea-break.
They were 158-1 at tea at Seddon Park, and lost their last nine wickets in fewer than 25 overs.
Pakistan’s unconvincing reply got off to a bad start when paceman Josh Hazlewood bowled opener Sami Aslam for two shortly before lunch after Australia captain Steve Smith declared at 624-8, a first innings lead of 181 runs.
Smith and tail-ender Mitchell Starc hammered Pakistan’s bowlers in a 154-run partnership after Australia had resumed on 465-6 in the morning.
Starc blasted seven sixes, a record at the MCG, before he was caught by Asad Shafiq for 84 from 91 balls, pulling Sohail Khan to square leg.
Smith finished with 13 fours and a six in his 17th test century, coming within touching distance of Don Bradman’s record batting average at the MCG.
Lyon was out for 12, lofting a return catch to bowler Yasir Shah before Smith promptly declared and bolted off the ground to a warm ovation from the sparse crowd.
Australia won a thrilling day-night test by 39 in the series opener in Brisbane and the teams conclude the three-match series with the New Year’s Test in Sydney on January 3.