Marnus Labuschagne set up Australia’s huge lead on Day Three to take the hosts on the brink of an easy victory. While David Warner was expected to continue in his merry way and get a double, it was Labuschagne, who stole the limelight and went on to register his highest score of 185.
Labuschagne played some delightful strokeplay, while his partner was kept quiet by some good defensive bowling. Warner could add just three more runs from 31 balls to his overnight score of 151 before he was caught behind off Naseem Shah, finally giving the teenager his first Test wicket. Naseem dismissed Warner off a no-ball on Day Two when the Australian opener was on 56. The Aussie crowd was in for a surprise as Steven Smith, playing his first home Test since his ban, was bowled by Yasir Shah for just four, but Australia were well past the 100-run lead by that point.
After missing out in England, Labuschagne finally got his maiden Test hundred, off 161 deliveries, much to the relief of the 25-year-old. Australia’s No. 3 got four fifties in The Ashes, but failed to convert those into big ones. The way he has gone about this innings, he has barely put a foot down and with the 129-run second-wicket stand with Warner, he has further strengthened Australia’s grip on the game.
The first session of the day turned out to be Pakistan’s best with the ball as they managed to pick up a couple of wickets, giving away 83 runs. But, with a 155-run lead, Australia were on the pole position at lunch.
Australia continued to dominate after lunch and scored some quick runs, which was an indication that they were thinking about declaration. Wade brought up his fifth half-century and his partnership with Labuschagne had gathered momentum. The duo eventually brought up their 100-run stand – the third of the innings – off 147 deliveries.
Wade was caught behind for 60, but Travis Head came in and settled down quickly. He looked busy right from the outset and scored at nearly run-a-ball. Labuschagne had gone past 150 and Australia, for the second time in row on home soil, scored 500 in an innings.
Australia scored at nearly 5-an-over in the post-lunch session and were closing in on a lead of 300, after losing Head caught down the leg side off Haris Sohail. Sohail therefore became only the second spinner after Kuldeep Yadav to dismiss Head in Australia.
From 532 for 5 at tea, Australia went through a collapse and were reduced to 567 for 9. The wickets included that of Labuschagne who was out 15 short of his double ton and Tim Paine, who has the worst average as a Test captain (24) after Suranga Lakmal (14.4) among players who have led in at least five Tests since 2018.
It was really puzzling as to why Australia had not declared at that point, but they were eventually bowled out for 580 after securing a lead of 340.
Pakistan were on the backfoot straightaway as Mitchell Starc removed Azhar Ali and Haris Sohail in quick succession. Josh Hazlewood, who bowled first change today dismissed Pakistan’s top-scorer from the first innings for a six-ball duck. Babar Azam and Shan Masood negotiated the rest of the day with Pakistan needing another 276 runs to make Australia bat again, with just seven wickets in the bag.
Australia have a golden chance to wrap things up on Day Four and given the way their bowlers have performed in this match, they very well might do so.
Pakistan 240 (Asad Shafiq 76, Azhar Ali 39; Mitchell Starc 4 for 52, Pat Cummins 4 for 60) & 64 for 3 (Shan Masood 27*, Babar Azam 20*; Mitchell Starc 2 for 25, Pat Cummins 1 for 16) trail Australia 580 (Marnus Labuschagne 185, David Warner 154; Yasir Shah 4 for 205, Haris Sohail 2 for 75) by 276 runs