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Australia faces daunting task to peg back Pakistan’s monumental lead

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Australia have set their sights on defying history as they aim to bat their way back into the Rawalpindi Test and pull off the most unlikely win against Pakistan.

The tourists were saved from a difficult final hour on day two, with bad light stopping play at 0-5 on Saturday after Pakistan had declared on 4-476.

The close was further complicated by a bizarre seven-minute delay to the start of Australia’s innings with the roller still on the pitch and confusion over whether quicks could bowl before only one over was sent down.

All of that worked firmly in Australia’s favour, as has the fact that they were able to bowl tight enough to contain Pakistan to a run-rate of 2.94 per over.

Australia therefore believe they are still in the contest if they can bat big and build a sizeable lead, in a game where Pakistan’s first three partnerships all topped 100 with Azhar Ali hitting 185 and Imam-ul-Haq 157.

“If we bat really well we can turn the game and potentially have something to bowl at later on day five,” Marcus Labuschagne said.

“We need to bat well. Two days are out of the game. We’ve got a really big day tomorrow where we need to set a really good platform.

“And then day four is going to be the moving day. If we bat really well on day four, we can give ourselves an opportunity, potentially, on day five.”

History, though, is not on Australia’s side.

Huge challenge

No Australian team has ever won a Test in Asia after conceding a score of more than 450 in the first innings of the match, while a comeback from a first innings of 476 to win would be Australia’s fourth-best fightback anywhere.

Adding to the challenge will be the fact there were signs of more spin and the pitch staying lower and slower on Saturday.

Reverse swing also began to feature with the pitch and outfield more abrasive, something Pakistan would be hopeful of capitalising on come Sunday.

Labuschagne said Australia need look no further than Azhar and Imal-ul-Haq for how to bat on the pitch, as they spent almost 87 overs together for a 205-run second-wicket stand.

“They both batted beautifully. They were patient, they didn’t really give us anything,” Labuschagne said.

“It’s just being disciplined in your game and making sure you’re staying focus for a long period of time.”

Australia did have chances to break through.

They failed to review a caught behind Imam-ul-Haq edged on 143, before Pat Cummins had the ball reversing to trap him lbw in the following session.

Alex Carey also put down a chance off Nathan Lyon when Mohammad Rizwan was on zero when he was dropped before finishing on 29no.

On a day where the pitch offered little, Labuschagne claimed a direct-hit run-out to get captain Babar Azam on 36 before also having Azhar caught trying to reverse sweep late.

-AAP

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