Epic draw boosts Pakistan’s hopes of winning series against Australia
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s marathon batting defense in the second draw Test match against Australia raised hopes for head coach Saqlain Mushtaq ahead of the series decider.
The third test begins Monday in Lahore.
“Defending over 1,000 balls was something very special,” Saqlain said on Friday. “A lot of people thought it was impossible, but all the players and the support staff in the dressing room were firmly of the belief that we weren’t going to give this game to Australia.”
Australia were clear favorites to lead 1-0 in the three-legged series after setting Pakistan a whopping 506 goal in a minimum of 172 overs at the Karachi National Stadium in hot conditions.
But Pakistan captain Babar Azam played an epic 196 from 425 balls in over 10 hours while Abdullah Shafique (96) and Mohammad Rizwan (104 not knocked out) also hit long stretches to prevent Australia from bringing home victory. Pakistan finished 443-7, 63 points short in what would have been a world record hunt.
“It would be unfair if I singled out a player who stood out,” Saqlain said. “The whole team is to be congratulated for showing such character against the world No.1 team, here after a 4-0 win for the Ashes at home.”
Australia had dominated for three days in Karachi with Mitchell Starc’s reverse swing. Pakistan were knocked out for 148 and conceded a whopping 408 run lead in the first set after the visitors declared themselves 556-9.
Babar held off the pace of Starc and Pat Cummins in the second inning and also held both spinners – Nathan Lyon and leg spin rookie Mitchell Swepson – at bay for more than five flawless, patient batting sessions.
Babar shared a two-century stand with Shafique, then his century-long partnership with Rizwan pushed the game deep into the final session.
Despite losing Babar with 12 overs remaining, Rizwan saw Lyon and Swepson’s tricky rotation with No.9 hitter Nauman Ali remaining unbeaten on 0 while confidently facing 18 balls. Rizwan later called Nauman’s scoreless innings as good as his century.
“That (Rizwan’s comments) sums up the feelings of the whole team,” Saqlain said. “The goal was to fight for the team.”
Australia’s first tour of Pakistan since 1998 began with a tame first test at Rawalpindi, where Pindi’s cricket stadium has been rated ‘below average’ by the ICC.
Saqlain said the epic draw boosted Pakistan’s confidence to surprise Australia.
“Before this series, our mission was to beat Australia and win the series,” Saqlain said. “It’s not that we just say it, we will do our best and produce a result in our favor in Lahore.”
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