Starc’s fiery spell puts Australia in command

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By our correspondent

KARACHI: Mitchell Starc’s lethal spell destroyed Pakistan’s batting as they were folded for only 148 in their first innings in response to Australia’s massive total of 556-9 declared on the third day of the second Test here at the National Stadium on Monday.

Starc (3-29 in 13) removed Azhar Ali (14) and Fawad Alam (0) off two successive balls to fold Pakistan in just 53 overs.

He was ably backed by debutant leggie Mitchell Swepson as he picked the prized scalp of Babar Aza (36) and Shaheen Afridi (19) to tell his supporters that he has started well and is a long way to go yet.

Sweppo, whose run-up and action has similarity with the now passed away leg-spin king Shane Warne, got little bit of assistance from the deteriorating track on which fast bowlers rocked Pakistan’s batting with a reverse swing.

Besides Starc and Sweppo, skipper Pat Cummins also showed great prowess and unsettled the hosts’ batting line-up which seemed a bit unprepared as most of their players had come to the Test directly after a long one-month PSL engagement.

Babar Azam, the skipper, looked to face the Australian pacers with extreme ease but he did not take the responsibility before eventually losing his wicket in desperation to Sweppo.

In order to rest his pacers Australia did not enforce follow-on and rather opted to bat first despite taking a 408-run lead and were 81-1 at stumps, for a 489-run lead overall.

Marnus Labuschagne (37*) and Usman Khawaja (35*) batted well and with a bit of speed knowing that time would be very important if they are to dismiss Pakistan in the second innings as the hosts will come with a renewed plan which might deny Australia the opportunity to grab the 10 wickets inside two days. David Warner (7) was the only batsman who fell, held nicely by Fawad Alam, who wanted to slice it towards point but failed to keep it down.

Australia’s pacer Mitchell Starc credited his whole bowling unit for such a huge performance.

“I think the whole collective bowling unit today did well and the bowling partnerships were excellent,” Starc said in a post day-3 virtual news conference.

“Micthell Swepson, the leggie, bowled ten overs and Sweppo picked a couple of wickets in Test cricket and played a significant role along with me and Pat Cummins in breaking the partnerships,” Starc said.

Meanwhile Pakistan’s batting coach Mohammad Yousuf hoped that his side will stage a fightback.

“I will not give any excuse. We will motivate the players and give them confidence and InshaAllah will fight in the second innings and will make a comeback,” Yousuf said.