Good things come to those who wait. For the SCG crowd it was a couple of sessions of full-blooded play after waiting more than four hours in the rain. For Younis Khan it was a first century in Australia at the end of a barren tour. For Australia, it was a rush of wickets to give them a firm grip of the Pink Test with two days left.
The wickets were as much due to Pakistan’s inattention as Australia’s excellence, with Azhar Ali and the captain Misbah-ul-Haq most due for introspection after falling prey to a run-out and a slog at Nathan Lyon, respectively. Asad Shafiq fell to a sublime catch by Steven Smith when he was already appealing for lbw, while Sarfraz Ahmed was accounted for by the extra bounce of the new ball in Mitchell Starc’s hands.
Play was delayed until 2.45pm by light but persistent showers, reducing the minimum overs to be bowled to 54. Younis, though, was unperturbed by the break, continuing in a methodical manner on resumption and working his way towards a century. The milestone made him the only man to have a made a century in all 10 Test-playing nations plus Pakistan’s adopted home in the UAE.
He was, however, complicit in the critical run-out of Azhar, who made it as far as 71 before he was undone by the combination of a ball driven fractionally out of the reach of mid-on – whom he had to wait for – and the strong left arm of Starc, who threw adroitly to the substitute gloveman Peter Handscomb; Matthew Wade being off the field and back at the team hotel with illness.
There had been some reverse-swing for Starc and Josh Hazlewood when play began, the captain Smith preferring the pace pair to spin for the first 12 overs of the day. In that time Azhar evaded a close lbw shout from Hazlewood when on 59, the ball hitting leg stump but not enough to overrule the on-field call.
A couple of other shots fell fractionally short of the fielders, and when Lyon was introduced he was able to gain some appreciable turn. However Azhar’s run-out was the only wicket, as Misbah hung on grimly in Younis’ more comfortable company until tea.
One of the more intriguing duels in this series has been that between Misbah and Lyon; more or less the inverse of how things panned out in the UAE in 2014. While Misbah has tried to attack Lyon in the old familiar style, balls have been going to hand rather than over the boundary, and so it was again when he swung for the Bill O’Reilly Stand and could only find the substitute fielder Jackson Bird.
At the other end Steve O’Keefe bowled neatly, challenging the stumps from wide of the crease, and was going up to appeal against Shafiq when a ball skidded on seemingly past the inside edge. Smith was up too, but somehow composed himself to claim a one-handed catch via Handscomb’s leg, which replays showed was the mode of dismissal due to the the thinnest of deflections from the bat.
Sarfraz showed his familiar attacking intent but was unable to get over the new ball, offering another chance well held by Bird. Mohammad Amir showed rather less composure than he had done on previous visits to the middle, swishing Lyon heedlessly to mid-off. When Wahab Riaz was bowled by Lyon’s sharp offbreak in the penultimate over Australia were very much ascendant, in spite of Younis’ best efforts.