3rd Test, Day 3: Cummins, Starc trigger Pakistan’s collapse, put Australia in command

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Australia pace duo of Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc triggered Pakistan’s batting collapse and put their team in commanding position on day three of the third and final Test at the Gaddafi Stadium, here on Wednesday.

After putting up a strong batting performance in the first two sessions, Pakistan lost momentum in the final session as they went from 227/3 to 268 all-out. Australian skipper Cummins with his brilliant fifer helped Australia take a crucial 123 runs lead in the first innings.

With a first-innings lead of 123 runs, Usman Khawaja (7 not out) and David Warner (4 not out) batted through to stumps without losing a wicket as Australia ended Day 3 at 11/0.

Resuming day three on 90 for 1, Pakistan batters Azhar Ali and Abdullah Shafique continued to make the Australian bowlers toil and took their time in the opening session. The Australian pacers were unable to find reverse swing in the opening session. Green, who opened the bowling at the start alongside Cummins, was immediately attacked by Azhar Ali, as he welcomed him with a flurry of boundaries.

Starc came late into the attack and was successful in troubling Shafique. Coming around the wicket, Starc bowled several excellent deliveries outside off stump but failed to break through. Just before lunch, leg spinner Mitchell Swepson managed to extract a turn off the surface and was successful in troubling the batters but didn’t have any wickets to show for it. Pakistan went unscathed into lunch at 159 for 1, with Shafique and Azhar unbeaten at the crease.

After lunch, Nathan Lyon provided the much-needed breakthrough for Australia. Lyon had been bowling some accurate length and his disciplined bowling finally paid off when he got a faint edge off Shafique’s bat on 81, thus ending the 150-run partnership. Despite coming off a match-saving 196 in the second Test, Babar Azam began nervously against Nathan Lyon. Azhar at the other end, was setting himself up for a century at his home ground. But Pat Cummins shattered the dream homecoming by dismissing him on 78 with a brilliant return catch.

Although Australia did not have complete control of the game throughout the day, they picked wickets when the game seemed to be slipping away from them and were able to put the fight back in the series-deciding Test. Babar and Fawad Alam batted out the rest of the session smartly, taking to tea on 227 for 3.

Pakistan looked in command before Australia staged a stunning comeback to seize complete control of the game. The reintroduction of Starc into the attack proved to be a brilliant decision as he dismissed Fawad Alam for 13 with a stunning inswinging delivery that sailed through the bat-pad gap and dislodged the stumps. Rizwan, the centurion from the previous game, couldn’t replicate his heroics and fell early to Starc, an ICC report said.

Things changed quickly as Pakistan’s tail was exposed after Rizwan’s wicket. Cummins and Starc then ran through the rest of the batting lineup — the skipper picked up three wickets in a span of two overs to complete his five-for while the left-arm pacer completed formalities by dismissing Babar for 67 and then rattling Naseem Shah’s stumps with a yorker.

The final session turned out to be a game-changer for Australia as they took seven wickets, reducing Pakistan from 227/3 to 268/10, and taking full control of the game.

Brief scores: Australia 391 (Usman Khawaja 91; Naseem Shah 4-58) & 11/0 lead Pakistan 268 (Abdullah Shafique 81, Azhar Ali 78; Pat Cummins 5-56, Mitchell Starc 4-33) by 134 runs.

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