Australia lost its first four wickets for 16 runs in its second innings but a 153-run stand between Steve Smith and Mitchell Marsh had the hosts in a good position with two days to play in the second cricket test against Pakistan.
Marsh was out for 96 and Smith for 50 to leave Australia at 187/6 at stumps Thursday and with a 241-run lead going into the fourth day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Marsh fell just short of his fourth test century after Salman Ali Agha hung onto a spectacular diving catch in the slips. Smith battled his way to his first test 50 since the Ashes from 176 balls, the second-slowest half-century of his career.
“It’s obviously disappointing. I thought we navigated our way out of a tricky situation in that partnership with (Smith),” Marsh said. “I guess there’s a lot of history at this ground, the Boxing Day test, and a bloody big honors board that I was close to getting on, but it wasn’t meant to be. Hopefully I get one more crack at it.”
Captain Pat Cummins took his 10th five-wicket total in test matches earlier to help Australia earn a 54-run first-innings lead. But Pakistan came back from the innings break to take the wickets of Usman Khawaja for a duck and Marnus Labuschagne for five, leaving Australia two wickets down for only six runs and an overall lead of 60 at lunch.
Cummins, who swung the Boxing Day test in Australia’s favor late on day two, grabbed two wickets on Thursday morning to finish with figures of 5-48. Pakistan’s tail showed far more resistance than expected to push its overnight score from 194-6 to be dismissed for 264 in reply to Australia’s 318.
Australia’s 54-run lead after the first innings was helped by Pakistan’s 52 extras.
Fast bowler Aamir Jamal frustrated Australia’s bowling attack Thursday, hitting an unbeaten 33 in just his second test. Afridi, who averages 6.74 with the bat, also thrashed his way to his highest test score of 21.
Cummins had strong support from spinner Nathan Lyon (4-73).
Pakistan is trying to avoid losing its 16th consecutive test in Australia.
Australia had resumed Wednesday on 187-3, following a rain-interrupted first day of play in which only 66 of the scheduled 90 overs were bowled.
Australia won the first test in Perth by 360 runs.
The third test in the three-match series is scheduled to begin Jan. 3 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, where Pakistan won its last test in Australia in 1995.