Pakistan are tasked with producing a record fourth-innings run chase to pull off an extraordinary win against Australia on the final day of the second Test, but captain Babar Azam has led the way in keeping the mission alive.
Pakistan are 2-192 at stumps on day four and require another 314 runs to clinch victory, after Azam ended a streak of 20 century-less innings en route to reaching stumps on 102.
Opener Abdullah Shafique has done a fine job at the other end, toiling through to stumps on 71.
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Pakistan’s target is 506 and the highest successful fourth-innings chase in a Test in Pakistan is 314, achieved by the host nation against Australia in Karachi in 1994.
“This knock means a lot to me,” Azam said on the Fox Cricket broadcast after play.
“The team needed it. Fortunately I have managed to get a good partnership with Abdullah Shafique.
“The match is not over yet, we need to continue playing in the same way and the other batters also need to step up.”
Azam and Shafique are attempting to perform a rescue job after Pakistan began the mammoth pursuit in horrible fashion.
Off-spinner Nathan Lyon trapped opener Imam-ul-Haq LBW for one and pace-bowling all-rounder Cameron Green removed first drop Azhar Ali for six by the same mode of dismissal, as Pakistan fell to 2-21 in the 23rd over.
Azam became the 20th Pakistani to score a fourth-innings ton and just the second Pakistan captain after Younis Khan.
Azam almost chopped a Cummins delivery onto his stumps on 98, before doing a terrific job of keeping out an in-swinging Cummins yorker on 102.
He brought up his hundred through a sweep off the bowling of leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson, clearing a short fine leg and collecting two runs.
“What a way to bring up his century!” said former Pakistan leg-spinner Urooj Mumtaz.
“The king is back and the king is back in style. Babar Azam, take a bow. What a knock this has been.
“The crowd is on their feet, the gallery is on their feet and so are we.”
Pakistan’s fourth-day fightback followed an Australian rampage with the ball a day earlier, when the home side was steamrolled for 148 in 53 overs.
Former Australian quick Michael Kasprowicz suggested the tourists may have taken to the fourth innings with an ill-fated mindset.
“I think from the Australians’ point of view, there’s been an expectation that this might be easy,” Kasprowicz said.
“That was never going to be the case.
“In the first innings, Pakistan were dismissed in just 53 overs, so there is that part where you’re coming into this second innings, you feel as though you’re going to breeze through it.
“That was never, ever going to be the case.”
The first Test ended in a mind-numbing draw, as Pakistan and Australia played out a stalemate on a Rawalpindi wicket rated as ‘below average’ by the International Cricket Committee.
But the second instalment of the series has already played host to an entertaining contest – and a thrilling final day could lie ahead.
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