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Thursday, November 26, 2020

Labuschagne brings Australia closer to victory in Brisbane

Pakistan were 64-3 at stumps with two days to play, still 276 runs in arrears with seven wickets in hand.

By: AP | November 23, 2019 3:04:25 pm
Marnus Labuschagne walks off the field after he lost his wicket for 185 runs. (Source: AP)

Marnus Labuschagne posted a career-high 185 and David Warner contributed 154 as the top three batsmen scored 436 of Australia’s 580 first-innings runs.

Pakistan’s first three wickets fell within seven overs in the second innings late Saturday to conclude a lopsided first three days in the series-opener at the Gabba, where the Australians haven’t lost a test since 1988.

Pakistan was 64-3 at stumps with two days to play, still 276 runs in arrears with seven wickets in hand.

Just like the batting lineup dominated an inexperienced attack, Australia’s fast bowlers were right on top.

Mitchell Starc, who took four wickets in Pakistan’s first innings of 240, added another two in his first spell in the second. The left-arm paceman trapped Pakistan captain Azhar Ali (5) lbw in the third over with the total on 13, and five balls later had Haris Sohail (8) caught behind to make it 25-2.

Asad Shafiq, the leading scorer in Pakistan’s first stand, didn’t get off the mark before getting a thick edge off Pat Cummins to Steve Smith at second slip and it was 25-3.

Shan Masood (27) and Babar Azam (20) survived until stumps and have a lot more work to do if Pakistan is to salvage the test.

That the Australian top-order found form on the true, bouncy pitch at the Gabba was surprising to nobody. The only quirk was Smith’s dismissal for four from 10 balls, making him the lowest scorer of Australia’s 11 batters _ despite a relative tail-end collapse when the last five wickets fell for 35 runs. Smith was almost immovable for the England bowlers in the Ashes, when he scored 774 runs in seven innings to lead the scoring.

Yasir Shah certainly has Smith’s measure, dismissing the ex-Australia captain for the seventh time in tests. For all the runs he saved by getting Smith out early, though, Yasir still finished with an unwanted record in the column for runs conceded. His figures of 4-205 from 48.4 overs made him the first bowler to concede 200-plus runs in a test innings three times. And two of those have been against Australia.

The leg-spinner had to shoulder extra load after 16-year-old Naseem Shah did no further bowling after having Warner caught behind by Mohammad Rizwan during a four-over morning spell.

It gave Naseem, the youngest player to make his test debut in Australia, his first wicket at cricket’s most elite level. That could have come on Friday, when he had Warner caught behind for 56, but for a no-ball that gave the Australian veteran a reprieve.

Naseem finished with 1-68 but was restricted to 20 overs. Another young paceman, 19-year-old Shaheen Afridi, picked up two late wickets to return 2-96 from 34 overs and part-timer Sohail had both Matthew Wade (60) and Travis Head (24) caught behind to finish with 2-75.

Labuschagne’s maiden test century soaked up much of the day. He went in with the total at 222 on Friday when Yasir bowled Joe Burns for 97, and he was 55 when Australia resumed on day three at 312-1.

The 25-year-old right-hander wasn’t out until after tea, when the score was 546-7, his 279-ball innings stretching into a fourth session before he flashed at a Shaheen delivery and edged to gully.

Labuschagne batted with confidence in his 10th test and a venue he knows well from playing first-class cricket on the ground. He had an lbw decision overturned on 93 after a review, and his 100 came from 161 balls in 200 minutes. After hitting 20 boundaries, and getting within sight of a double-century, it was a tired shot that ended his innings.

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