Pakistan 282 to all and 144 to 2 (Fakhar 66, Azhar 54 *, Starc 1-22) lead Australia 145 to all (Finch 39, Abbas 5-33) for 281 runs
Today was the day that every day was supposed to be this series. With a team from Pakistan that has historically been almost invincible in the United Arab Emirates against an Australian test unit that was almost unrecognizable, the hosts finally dominated in every facet. Their fast pitchers outperformed Australians, their spinners were a separate class, and the batting was in a different league than the calamitous effort of the visitors they offered this morning. The result was that Pakistan led by 281 races with eight windows still in hand. With three days remaining in this Test, it is likely that any fourth batting heroes turn this time, however Herculean they may be, prevent an Australian defeat.
Australia's only chance of victory is to deliver Pakistan at a low price, but those hopes were courtesy of other skillful entries from debutant Fakhar Zaman. This was more to write, the opener intelligent enough to understand that he would be able to break free in the way he has become his strength, fast races are the best way to put the game out of Australia's reach. He put 66 of them, and sought to reach the hundred debut that yesterday was denied so agonizing. But a surprising capture of Nathan Lyon from his own skittles frustrated Fakhar's hopes. Lyon seemed to be taking evasive action after Fakhar hit the ball hard, but the cherry landed on his hands, and Australia was able to celebrate a fleeting moment of joy.
Even Azhar Ali, who had struggled to run for the past 18 months, found himself today, finishing unbeaten at 54 when the day came to an end. He seemed safer than he had in months, he seemed safer when he used his feet. He was also willing to be patient when the bowling game tensed, refusing to give in as he had done in two of his previous three innings in this series. While Lyon remained, by a distance, the best bowler in Australia, it was not a compliment but the numbers in the window column that Australia needed to feel more optimistic at the end of the second day.
For the second time in so many trials, Pakistan opened big holes in the middle order of Australia, establishing firm control from the beginning. It was Mohammad Abbas, the flavor of this season, who continued to fall in love with Pakistan fans. He joked and tested Australia's hitters in a game of patience, as Shaun Marsh and Travis Head were his third and fourth victims this morning, joining the two scalps from the previous night. The pair fell almost identically: Abbas throwing in a line just outside the stump and nibbling lightly, the outer edges almost drawn towards the ball as if they were in his magnetic field.
Sarfraz Ahmed, enthusiastic to take advantage of the new ball while the playing field was cooperative, kept Abbas in a long period of seven spells, and Pakistan seems to have discovered a gem that looks dangerous in any situation or situation. You can play in England, the West Indies or the United Arab Emirates without realizing where you are. Left-handed, left-handed, new ball, old ball. It is a trump card that Pakistan can continue to play for years to come.
Mitchell Marsh looked solid during the time he was in the fold, and with Aaron Finch, who had managed to survive all morning, Australia needed an association of the kind that Sarfraz and Fakhar had organized on Tuesday. But within the last half hour before lunch, the pendulum of the session tilted decisively in favor of Pakistan when the spinners made their presence felt. First it was Yasir who took the advantage of Marsh, another catch for reliable Asad Shafiq in the first landslide. Bilal Asif then hit the hammer blow when he pulled the opener Finch for 39, with a short leg that he dived to catch with intelligence once the ball had brushed the inside edge. And there was still time for Asif to eliminate Australia's captain, Tim Paine, before lunch, trapping him in the fold when the ball spun abruptly on his pads.
Pakistan did not need help, but was helped by a moment of madness by Marnus Labuschagne that put an end to Australia's biggest association: 37 races. After Starc led Yasir to the bowler, Yasir was tapped on the ball as he headed toward the stumps. Labuschagne had his bat in the air as he watched the ball hit the stumps, but inexplicably he could not connect his bat. Shortly after, Asif broke Lyon's defenses, before Abbas completed a five-window run, and his best innings in his career, to close Australia's innings.
Without any of the batting concerns that Australia had before this series came close, it seems difficult to see a way out of this hole for Paine's men. Meanwhile, Pakistan is on track to set aside last week as an unfortunate blip, and it takes away the authority to claim that its UAE formula still adds up.