A disappointing day with the bat has left Australia teetering on the brink of another heavy defeat at the hands of Pakistan with two days of the second Test remaining.
Australia was bowled out for 261 – a first-innings deficit of 309 – before Pakistan opted against enforcing the follow-on, instead extending their colossal advantage as they reached 2-61 at stumps.
Resuming on day 3 at 1-22, the tourists endured the worst possible start – master blaster David Warner was dismissed by Rahat Ali with only 12 runs added to the overnight score.
After a brief fight-back, Glenn Maxwell (who scored 37 from just 28 balls), nightwatchman Nathan Lyon and Steve Smith fell in the space of 25 runs to leave Australia in dire straits at 5-100.
Michael Clarke looked in superb touch as he set about a rescue mission, adding 64 for the sixth wicket with all-rounder Mitchell Marsh, but after smashing seven boundaries in his 47 the skipper had his middle stump ripped out of the ground by Imran Khan.
Brad Haddin suffered a similar fate at the hands of spinner Yasir Shah after contributing just 10, while Mitchell Johnson recorded a seven-ball duck and became Yasir’s second victim. The big-hitting Johnson was dropped by wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed a ball earlier, but inexplicably played a rash slog across the line that caught a top-edge and provided an easy catch for Mohammed Hafeez.
Coming in with the score at 8-199, Peter Siddle supported the in-form Marsh superbly and the pair combined for a ninth-wicket stand of 62.
Marsh fell 13 runs short of a maiden century in his second Test appearance as Imran struck again, and Siddle holed out to Hafeez two balls later, ensuring all five bowlers used by Pakistan had a piece of the wicket-taking action.
David Warner emerged from the dressing rooms with the wicketkeeper’s gloves on, with Brad Haddin still struggling with a shoulder injury incurred in the field on day 2.
Perhaps stung by his brain explosion with bat in hand, Johnson set about atoning with the ball and had removed both openers by the time Pakistan’s second dig had netted 21 runs.
But Azhar Ali and the impregnable Younis Khan saw Pakistan through to the end of the day without further loss.
Stud of the day
Given the difficult circumstances and his relative inexperience, Mitchell Marsh’s innings was outstanding. The 23-year-old’s 87 – from 116 balls – included 13 fours and a six, while he brought up his first Test half-century in just 56 balls.
Imran Khan produced an absolute peach to dismiss Michael Clarke. The captain looked in excellent form before receiving the virtually unplayable delivery, but his exit was the trigger for Australia losing their last five wickets for only 97 runs.
Only a monumental bowling performance by Australia will prevent Pakistan setting a near-impossible fourth innings target. And given the way Australia has bowled and batted so far this series, dismissing Pakistan before they declare, running down a huge target, or merely surviving a day and a half out in the middle against the Pakistan attack all appear to be extremely unlikely scenarios.
If Pakistan forges on to victory in this Test, it will be their first series victory over Australia since the 1994 home series, while it would mark just the second time they have won two Tests in a series against Australia – and the first since a 3-0 drubbing at home in 1982.