Mitchell Marsh swings momentum back to Australia at MCG

Mitchell Marsh turns the Test in Australia’s favour on his way to 96 at the MCG on Thursday.

Mitchell Marsh turns the Test in Australia’s favour on his way to 96 at the MCG on Thursday. Photo: Getty

Pakistan appears to have blown its best chance to win a Test in Australia after Mitch Marsh capitalised on a dropped catch to steer the hosts out of a historic collapse at the MCG.

Marsh (96), along with Steve Smith (50), saw off Pakistan’s best in the Boxing Day Test, rescuing their team from 4-16 – Australia’s worst start to a Test innings at the MCG since 1911.

The pair put on a 153-run fifth-wicket stand to guide Australia to 6-187 at stumps on day three, a lead of 241, to be in the box seat to go 2-0 up in the three-match series and win a 16th straight home Test against Pakistan.

But Smith was out to star Pakistan quick Shaheen Afridi (3-58) on the final ball of the day, leaving wicketkeeper Alex Carey (16 not out) to resume with Mitchell Starc on Friday.

Pakistan would have been in full control of the Test had opening batter Abdullah Shafique not put down a simple catch in the slips for the second time in three days.

After dropping Warner in the third over of the match on day one, Shafique spilled a golden opportunity to dismiss Marsh when Australia was on the ropes at 4-46.

“This was a big, big opportunity … this might be the difference between winning and losing this game,” Pakistan legend Waqar Younis said in commentary on the Seven Network.

“Pakistan fought so, so hard through all of this match and that catch might cost them this match.”

The missed chance took steam out of Pakistan’s unlikely charge as Marsh continued his sparkling form since being recalled to the team during the third Test of this year’s Ashes.

But in an extraordinary turn of events, Marsh (96) 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 glittering career.

Pakistan quicks Afridi and Mir Hamza (3-27) caused havoc either side of the lunch break to swing the match in the tourists’ favour.

Hamza was on a hat-trick after bowling David Warner (6) and Travis Head (first-ball duck) in consecutive deliveries to leave Australia reeling at 4-16.

The devastating spell brought back memories of Pakistan’s heyday when the likes of Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram and Imran Khan terrorised batters with wily swing bowling.

Warner was given a standing ovation from the MCG crowd after departing the arena in what was his final Test innings at the famous ground ahead of his retirement following next week’s series finale in Sydney.

Australia went to lunch at 2-6 after Usman Khawaja (duck) and Marnus Labuschagne (4) both fell during a chaotic 15 minutes of play.

Australia was forced to bat for a tricky period before the break on Thursday after Pakistan was bowled out for 264.

Earlier, captain Pat Cummins took his 10th five-wicket haul in Tests to help end Pakistan’s innings.

Cummins, who swung the second Test in Australia’s favour late on day two, grabbed two wickets on Thursday morning to finish with figures of 5-48.

Pakistan’s notoriously brittle tail showed far more resistance than expected to push its overnight score from 6-194 in reply to Australia’s 318.

Fast bowler Aamir Jamal smashed an unbeaten 33, while Afridi (21), who averages 6.74 with the bat, also thrashed his way to his highest Test score.

Cummins had tremendous support from spinner Nathan Lyon (4-73), who has the fifth-most Test scalps at the MCG to show no sign of slowing down after entering the 500-wicket club during the first Test in Perth.

For Australian bowlers who have taken more than 100 Test wickets, Cummins has the best strikerate (47.25), with Mitchell Starc (48.94) next.


Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.