Australia will need a last-day miracle if they are to avoid defeat in the first Test after a dramatic collapse on day four
Scorecard: Pakistan v Australia
Earlier: Haddin denies spin weakness
History-maker: Younis scores twin centuries
Australia are facing the unpalatable prospect of a chastening defeat in the first Test against Pakistan after the old nemesis of spin bowling reared its head on a remarkable fourth afternoon.
Australia have six wickets in hand and a final day to face on a pitch that Pakistan’s spinners have made to look far more threatening and dangerous than their Australian counterparts have managed.
Nominally, Australia require another 379 runs for a victory that, were it to be achieved, would not only set a new world record but go down in history as the most unlikely of sporting triumphs.
David Warner and Chris Rogers set off in hot pursuit of the 438-run target with gusto as Pakistan declared following Younis Khan’s second century of the match. Sixteen runs came from the first two overs – two boundaries cracked by Warner started the innings.
The pair put on 44 in the first 13 overs. While Rogers was doing everything in his power to keep his wicket intact, Warner was at his belligerent best and had raced to 29 from 26 balls.
Then it all fell apart.
Warner advanced down the pitch to drive again through the covers, but was beaten by the arm ball from Zulfiqar Babar, and Sarfraz Ahmed whipped the bails off in a flash to send Australia’s top batsmen on his way back to the sheds.
With spinners operating at both ends, Alex Doolan came out to bat in a Baggy Green that still looked a fresh, deep green playing in his fourth Test. But he was soon on his way back to the sheds too.
Moving back and playing across the line, he was dead to rights in front, a duck to go with a first-innings return of five.
Suddenly, the Dubai pitch was spitting demons. Pakistan asked for a review for an lbw appeal off Michael Clarke’s second ball, but the skipper survived as the ball-tracking showed umpire’s call for impact with the pad and stumps.
Clarke’s reprieve didn’t last long. Facing up to the leg-spin of debutant Yasir Shah, he played the wrong line and was given out lbw. He consulted with Rogers over a review, hesitated, then walked off.
Quick Single: Clarke admits DRS error
It was symptomatic of Australia’s malaise that television replays showed the skipper had got an inside edge on the ball.
Nightwatchman Nathan Lyon lasted three balls before he too fell lbw.
In 3.1 overs, Australia had lost four wickets for five runs and, with it, most likely the Test match.
Earlier in the session, Younis had become the first man in more than 40 years to score twin centuries against Australia. The last was Black Caps opener Glenn Turner in Christchurch in March 1974.
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq declared at 2-286, leaving 23 overs for the Australians to negotiate before stumps.
That Australia could only take two wickets on day four would be a matter of some concern before next week’s second Test in Abu Dhabi, but of more pressing concern would be the imposing target.
History is against Australia, and it would take a new world record to achieve victory. The current best fourth-innings score to win remains the West Indies 7-418 against Australia in 2003.
Australia’s best fourth-innings winning total was the 3-404 against England at Leeds in 1948, when Sir Donald Bradman hit an unbeaten 173 to secure the win.
Earlier, Pakistan tightened their grip on the match after upping their earlier pedestrian run-rate in spectacular fashion – 20 coming from one Peter Siddle over – as they reached 1-231 at tea, a lead of 382.
The mid-afternoon flourish followed Ahmed Shezhad (131) posting his second Test century, while Younis backed up his first-innings ton with another.
No wickets fell in the period between lunch and tea and while Australia’s bowling was for the most part restrictive, it was also largely unthreatening.
Pakistan had added 78 runs in the first session and there was a 21 over gap between boundaries as the hosts seem to have little urgency to build a lead.
All that changed once Shezhad brought up his personal milestone with a straight four off Siddle from the last ball of the 64th over.
The next six overs brought 42 runs.
Having made his ton, Shezhad freed the arms and looked to unleash on Siddle. One boundary was smashed back over the bowler’s head, and the next ball was dispatched a dozen rows back over the mid-wicket fence.
Siddle attempted to follow with a bouncer so short it was called wide. The next delivery was full and straight as Shezhad cleared the front leg and dispatched it into the fast-filling grandstand, this time over long-on.
Mitchell Johnson was not immune from treatment either, although averaging 145kph throughout the match, he was much harder to get away.
Steve O’Keefe had made the solitary breakthrough for Australia in the first session of day four, having Azhar Ali well caught behind by Brad Haddin.
Azhar was promoted to open in place of Mohammad Hafeez, who rolled an ankle late on the third afternoon fielding off his own bowling.
Haddin took the catch in the webbing of his gloves, riding the bounce to take the edge off the batsman’s cut-shot to send Ali on his way for 30.
Australia’s wicketkeeper, who turned 37 on day two of this Test match, had the over before put down a sharp chance off Lyon’s bowling.
Shehzad got forward to a ball, inside-edged onto his pad and the deflection brushed Haddin’s fingertips on its way to the turf.
Shezhad brought up a half-century but also suffered a nasty blow from, you guessed it, a searing Johnson bouncer.
Swung around to the Emirates Road end for the first time in this Test match, Johnson pinned the batsman above the heart with a 147kph lifter.
It was an all too rare moment of discomfort for Pakistan’s batsmen.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
First Posted 26 October, 2014 2:10AM AEST