Twin fifties from Fakhar Zaman and Azhar Ali in the final session saw the host run to a 281-run lead. Pakistan made 144 for two, two days into the second and final Test of the series in Abu Dhabi.
Australia started the day at 20/2, 262 runs behind Pakistan’s first innings total. Shaun Marsh was the first wicket to fall in the morning session, edging Abbas’s straight delivery to the first slip.
Travis Head, who scored a crucial 175-ball 72 in the fourth innings of the first Test, was Abbas’ fourth straight scalp of the game. The pacer came around the wicket, angled the delivery into the right-hander, and produced an edge of Head’s bat, which flew straight to the second slip.
Mitchell Marsh held the fort for 37 balls, but was ultimately undone by a flighted leg-break from Yasir Shah. Finch, who had weathered the storm to add 39 runs on the board, was dismissed by Bilal Asif, who had made his Test debut in the first game. The opener could not gauge with the spin and bounce on the bowler’s delivery, edging it to short-leg in the 31st over.
Tim Paine, the Australian skipper, was trapped lbw by Asif in the last over before lunch. The visitors were in a world of trouble at 91/7 after the first session.
Marnus Labuschagne and Mitchell Starc accumulated 37 crucial runs for the seventh wicket, depleting Pakistan’s lead by a considerable margin with their plucky effort. The former, however, fell to a baffling run-out – his bat was inside the crease when the ball hit the stumps, but the right-hander never grounded it in. The partnership broke just as the visitors were looking to creep their way back into the game, as Pakistan reasserted their dominance on the proceedings.
Nathan Lyon was bowled by Asif 2.4 overs later and Abbas claimed his five-wicket haul as he dismissed Starc for a well-made 34, capping Pakistan’s first-innings lead at a healthy 137. Starc followed up on his gritty knock by giving the visitor an early breakthrough in the third innings – his length-delivery on the off-stump was driven straight by Mohammad Hafeez to short cover. The birthday boy returned to the pavilion with a 13-ball 6.
Zaman, who scored a counter-attacking 94 in the first innings, stitched an assertive partnership with Ali, as the duo added 91 runs for the second wicket. With his 88-ball 66, the left-hander became the fourth debutant from Pakistan to notch up 50-plus scores in both innings of his maiden Test.
Zaman was finally dismissed in the 26th over of the innings when Lyon pulled off a stunning caught-and-bowled effort off a firm drive from the batsman. It was an incredible piece of fielding from the off-spinner, which broke the shackles for Australia at the crucial junction of the game.
The visitor is still in a perilous position right now, with Pakistan’s lead already amounting to a tough fourth-innings chase.
Brief scores: Pakistan 282 and 144/2 (Fakhar Zaman 66, Azhar Ali 54 batting) vs Australia 145 (Aaron Finch 39, Mitchell Starc 34, Mohammed Abbas 5/33, Bilal Asif 3/23)