Match Report:


Cummins brilliance gives Aussies the upper hand

Australia's skipper leads the way with inspired third-session spell to spark a Pakistan collapse

Australia v Pakistan | Second Test | Day 2

A crucial double-strike by Australia captain Pat Cummins put his team in charge of the second Test after Pakistan's top-order resistance gave way to a disastrous middle-order collapse.

At stumps on day two, Pakistan were 6-194 and 124 runs adrift of Australia's first innings total having lost 5-70 in the face of some inspired last-session bowling by the home side's rampaging quicks and spinner Nathan Lyon.

At 1-124 and just 194 short of their hosts' first-innings score, with opener Abdul Shafique and skipper Shan Masood untroubled at the crease, Pakistan looked to have wrested control for the first time in the three-match NRMA Insurance Series.

Classy Cummins castles Babar with a beauty

An hour later they were in disarray at 6-170, with their sudden and undignified return to underdog status triggered by Cummins' stunning return catch that sent back Shafique for 62.

While that blow carried a whiff of good fortune given the right-hander had seemed set for a sizeable score, the next came courtesy of Cummins' undisputed bowling acumen as he jagged an off-cutter between bat and pad of Pakistan's best batter, Babar Azam, and rearranged his stumps.

The responsibility that had landed on Masood's shoulders in the absence of his set batting partner proved too heavy a burden for the captain who, having signalled his intention to go after Lyon, launched a wild heave across the line that spiralled to point.

It was canny execution from Australia's record-breaking offie, who noted Masood's willingness to try and hit him down the ground and tossed up a slower, flighted offering which his quarry rashly went after.

Cummins snaffles superb caught and bowled

To add an exclamation point to Pakistan's capitulation, Saud Shakeel registered the first single-figure total of a nascent Test career in which he had become the first men's player in Test history to score at least 20 in 15 consecutive innings from debut (which came a year ago).

It was only the defiance of newly recalled keeper Mohammad Rizwan (29no), which included an audacious standing sweep for six off Cummins, that gave Pakistan any hope of closing in on an Australia total that had seemed a touch skinny in the hour after tea.

And when Cummins claimed his third with allrounder Salman Ali Agha caught behind driving lazily, Rizwan's job became even tougher with only a brace of fast bowlers to support him in that pursuit after they had so manfully got their team back into the game earlier in the day.

Australia's collapse to surrender 7-131 inside 31 overs between resumption of play and lunch might have seen them finish with a below-expected total of 318, but the struggles faced by their batters raised hopes Pakistan would similarly battle throughout the afternoon.

'Two dismissals, two reviews, two survivals': Marsh's DRS frenzy

However, despite some searching spells by the hosts' three-pronged pace attack, Pakistan's top-order hung tough and it was only the introduction of Lyon that put a dent in their reply.

Openers Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq had safely negotiated almost an hour of seamers prior to Lyon's introduction for the 12th over, with the only nervous moment coming when Imam (on seven) survived an lbw shout off Cummins that was shown to be bouncing over the stumps when Australia reviewed.

Lyon's introduction brought an immediate change in the narrative, with the doubts raised for the Pakistan pair laid bare when Shafique offered no shot to a sharp-turning off-break that was given not out on field and would have stayed that way if reviewed, albeit with the ball grazing his off stump.

At the start of his third over, Lyon induced a false stroke from the right-hander who squeezed the ball on to his pad from where it rebounded sharply towards leg slip where David Warner was unable to pluck the tough chance low to his left.

But three balls later, with just his fourth delivery at Imam who had been so ingloriously deceived and stumped by Australia's spinner at Perth, Lyon secured the breakthrough with a ball that bounced more than the opener expected and was edged to second slip which had been specially stationed.

If Australia thought that initial strike might bring a clatter of wickets, the notion was quickly disavowed as skipper Masood joined Shafique for a counter-punching second-wicket stand that yielded 90 from just 118 balls.

The manner in which the pair were able to survive the threatening deliveries and score from the rare loose ones raised expectations the pitch that had proved so tricky for batters across the first day and a bit might be levelling out.

Then, against the run of play and as he threatened to usurp Labuschagne as the game's top scorer, Shafique bunted a leaden-footed drive from high on his bat back towards Cummins who latched on to the unexpected offering in his left claw.

Rizwan's 'rip-snorter'! Pakistan keeper takes one-hander

Until that point, Pakistan could have comfortably claimed to have won the day having narrowed the deficit to less than 200 after mopping up Australia's innings inside the morning session.

It seemed an unlikely outcome after Australia's unbeaten pair Labuschagne and Travis Head helped themselves to boundaries from the day's opening overs – the former with a consummate flick off his pads and the latter a typically emphatic cover-drive against a gift-wrapped half-volley.

The complexion changed immediately and irreversibly when Head's compulsion to score brought about his downfall, chasing a wide ball from Shaheen Shah Afridi swinging further away that he could only edge to second slip.

Labuschagne's 50 – his 17th in Tests, and the first posted for the bowler-dominated match – provided a moment of celebration for home fans, but Pakistan's bowlers were taking control even if some of their successes were frustratingly short lived.

Twice in successive deliveries, Mitchell Marsh was adjudged out by umpire Joel Wilson only for both decisions to be overturned upon review by the batter.

The first was an lbw shout that Marsh seemed almost reluctant to challenge, with hot spot technology revealing the ball had grazed bat before hitting pad which only inflamed Pakistan's annoyance that further examination (ie snicko) wasn't subsequently employed.

That aggravation explained the vehemence of Hasan's prolonged appeal for a catch behind next ball, but Marsh was much more certain of his innocence and immediately called for third umpire intervention which found – contrastingly to the preceding shout – no bat and only thigh pad.

When the all-rounder successfully defended the fired-up fast bowler's next delivery, the roar that rose around the 44,837-strong MCG crowd and his good-natured acknowledgement of it underscored the new status he holds as an Australia fan favourite.

His celebrity only grew when he clubbed off-spinner Salman down the ground for a thunderous six, but Pakistan struck back moments before the second new ball became due with Labuschagne edging to slip.

Labuschagne's 63 equalled his highest Test score at the MCG, meaning it remains the only major mainland Test venue in his home nation where he is yet to post a century.

The combination of the new ball and emboldened bowlers saw Australia's final five wickets clatter for the addition of 58 runs, with the tailspin set in motion by Rizwan's stunning one-handed catch low to his right to remove rival gloveman Alex Carey.

Successive boundaries to Mitchell Starc saw him join Shane Warne (3154 and 708) and Mitchell Johnson (2065 and 313) as the third Australia men's player to complete the Test double of 2000 runs and 300 wickets.

But no sooner had that milestone been ticked off than Starc became the seventh Australia batter to be caught behind the wicket.

Marsh then broke that trend by slicing a catch to deep point, and the tailenders scrambled a few useful boundaries amid a bouncer blitz before the innings ended on 318 with extras contributing 52 which represented a maiden half-century for the sundries column in an MCG Test.

For two and a half hours, that seemed a total that may prove inadequate but – by the close of day two – it remained a distant challenge for Pakistan's under-siege batters.

NRMA Insurance Test series v Pakistan

First Test: Australia won by 360 runs

Second Test: December 26-30, MCG (10.30am AEDT)

Third Test: January 3-7, SCG (10.30am AEDT)

Australia squad: Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Steve Smith, Mitch Starc, David Warner

Pakistan squad: Shan Masood (c), Aamir Jamal, Abdullah Shafique, Abrar Ahmed, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Saim Ayub, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Saud Shakeel and Shaheen Shah Afridi