It’s a funny game sometimes. The damp squib of the first Test, where some were predicting a draw by lunch on the first day, was followed up by more of the same for the first couple of days in Karachi.
Instead, Australia’s reluctance to enforce the follow-on and instead batting for a meagre total and then declaring blessed us with a day five where all three outcomes were on the table.
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The target was 506, a world away from the record fourth-innings chase of 418 by the West Indies in 2003. And yet, thanks to Abdullah Shafique and Babar Azam’s third-wicket stand, that mountain became progressively smaller as the day wore on, and a frustrated Australia toiled in the field.
Shafique was eventually dismissed after a superb 96, and Fawad Alam shortly after.
But it was when Mohammad Rizwan joined Babar at the crease that the unlikeliest of wins became a faint possibility.
Babar has quietly established himself as one of the sport’s top batters in recent years, but this latest knock, and the names he now sits above, highlight how good he is.
He now owns the highest score by a captain in the fourth innings of a Test match – with Michael Atherton, Bevan Congdon, Don Bradman, Ricky Ponting (twice), Graeme Smith, Brian Lara, Virat Kohli and Wally Hammond all below him in the new top-10 list.
But when his resistance was finally broken on 196, gloving one off the bowling of Nathan Lyon, Australia kicked the door wide open.
Faheem Ashraf went for a golden duck, while Steve Smith had his second catch in four overs when Lyon got Sajid Khan, setting up a tense finish.
Rizwan and Nauman Ali steered Pakistan to stumps, the last moment of drama coming when Usman Khawaja dropped a relatively simple catch with 19 balls remaining in the day.
But there was one more moment for the home crowd to cheer.
Rizwan began the penultimate over on 91, smacked Lyon for two boundaries and then pushed the final delivery away for a single, finishing the match on 104 when the fourth ball of debutant Mitchell Swepson’s over, the last of the match, was sent to the ropes.
Pakistan had stonewalled through 171.4 overs to avoid a 1-0 series deficit.
Despite everything that went right for the hosts, there is a sense of what might have been, which seems ridiculous when you consider they were chasing more than 500.
But with Rizwan and Babar cruising in the second session, T20-esque theatrics weren’t required, just a slight uptick in tempo.
Instead, the shackles were locked in and the hosts were content to settle for a draw, which they very nearly didn’t get.
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