A ton of defiance from Pakistan’s captain Babar Azam has left the clock nervously ticking on Australia’s bid for a breakthrough Test victory in Karachi.
Set an improbable 506 runs to win, Babar’s stoic unbeaten 102 steered Pakistan to 192 for two at stumps on day four. Australia need eight last-day wickets from a minimum of 90 overs to claim their first Test win in Karachi from nine attempts. Pakistan need 314 more runs for an improbable, record-breaking win.
Babar combined with opener Abdullah Shafique (71 not out from 226 balls) for an unbroken 171-run partnership after Pakistan plunged into early strife. Australian spinner Nathan Lyon (one for 50) and all-rounder Cameron Green (one for 15) took early wickets to leave Pakistan wobbling at two for 21.
Lyon removed Imam-ul-Haq for one before lunch when the Pakistan opener lunged forward defensively but missed the ball, which struck his front pad. Imam was given out but opted to review and replays showed the ball would have hit his stumps.
After the break, Green dismissed Azhar Ali for six in bizarre fashion. The opener ducked a short ball from Green that kept low and struck the batter on the body as he ducked and was given out lbw. But replays showed the ball brushed Azhar’s glove, though the right-hander did not seek a review of the lbw verdict.
Shafique and Babar negotiated their way to stumps, with Pakistan soaking up 82 overs – their entire first innings had only lasted 53. But their resistance was not without incident. Shafique was given a reprieve on 20 when Steve Smith turfed a regulation catching chance at first slip from Pat Cummins’s bowling. Shafique was also fortunate to survive a run out chance. On 33, the opener played a Lyon delivery to the on-side and a sliding Green launched a throw that narrowly missed the stumps with the batter well short of the crease.
But Babar settled the hosts with a superb century, reaching his milestone from 180 balls when he top-edged a sweep over short fine-leg from legspinner Mitchell Swepson (no wickets for 57).
Earlier, the Australians declared their second innings at 97 for two, some 25 minutes into day four, a lead of 505 runs. The highest successful run chase in Test history is West Indies’ 418 for seven to beat Australia in Antigua in 2003.
The unlikely victory assignment comes after Australia amassed 556 for nine declared in their first innings and then bowled out Pakistan for 148. Australia’s captain Cummins chose not to enforce the follow-on and instead batted again. Cummins halted his team’s second innings when Marnus Labuschagne fell for 44, leaving Usman Khawaja, following his 160, unbeaten, also on 44.
The Australians began their victory quest with a minimum of 172 overs to bowl Pakistan out and secure a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series after a drawn first Test in Rawalpindi.