By our correspondent
LAHORE: Rain interfered with the action at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), where Pakistan and Australia face each other for the second Test of the three-match series. Pakistan bowlers struck thrice to avoid significant damage, countering the solid start by David Warner and Usman Khawaja.
After winning the toss, Pakistan opted to field first in the Boxing Day Test, banking on overcast conditions to favour their seam bowling attack. Shaheen Shah Afridi opened the bowling alongside fellow left-handed pacer Mir Hamza.
Left-handed batter David Warner was given a new life when Abdullah Shafique dropped him at first slip off Shaheen’s bowling in just the third over of the game. The first-wicket stand between Warner and Usman Khawaja yielded 90 runs.
Salman Ali Agha provided the first breakthrough for Pakistan as Warner was caught at first slip by Babar Azam on the stroke of lunch. Warner, riding on the back of a match-winning century at Perth, returned to the pavilion after scoring 38 from 83, including three fours.
Recalled to the Test side for the first time since January, right-arm fast bowler Hasan Ali quickly settled in and brought Pakistan the second wicket shortly after lunch. Australia were reduced to 108-2 in the 34th over after Khawaja (42, 101b, 5x4s), who had braved the new ball well for his team, edged the ball and was caught by Salman in the slips.
Marnus Labuschagne and Steven Smith replaced the opening duo on the crease. The two saw off the second session of the day, with the Pakistan pace attack looking to make the most of the increasingly bleak conditions as dark clouds loomed over the MCG. Hasan and Shaheen worked in tandem to mount pressure on the home side, bowling three maidens in a row at one point.
Soon after, rain enforced an early tea and play was suspended owing to weather conditions. Australia ended the session at 114-2 in 42.4 overs.
Shaheen returned with the ball once play resumed and trapped Smith LBW, but the decision was overturned after a successful review by the batter. Eventually, Aamir Jamal provided the much-needed breakthrough, cutting short the gritty 46-run stand between Smith and Labuschagne, as the former was caught behind after edging the ball. Smith walked back after scoring 26 from 75, including two boundaries.
Travis Head (nine not out, 19b, 1×4) replaced Smith on the crease. Batting alongside Labuschagne, he helped Australia get to 187-3 in 66 overs by stumps. Labuschagne (44 not out, 120b, 3x4s) will face the first ball on the second day.
Action will resume on day two at the Melbourne Cricket Ground at 0430 PKT.
Scores in brief:
Australia overs 187-3, 66 overs (Marnus Labuschagne 44 not out, Usman Khawaja 42, David Warner 38; Salman Ali Agha 1-5, Hasan Ali 1-28, Aamir Jamal 1-47)
By our correspondent