Lahore. Pakistan pace bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi took two wickets in three balls to rattle Australia at the start of the third and deciding Test in Lahore before they recovered to 70-2 at lunch on Monday.
Shaheen had Australia in trouble at 8-2 in the third over of the innings when he trapped David Warner lbw and then had Marnus Labuschagne edge behind to wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan for a duck two balls later.
At the break, opener Usman Khawaja was on 31 and Steve Smith 28, having fought back with an unbroken third-wicket stand of 62 after Australia captain Pat Cummins won the toss and opted to bat on a brownish Gaddafi Cricket Stadium pitch.
The 21-year-old Shaheen was fiery with the new ball, troubling the batsmen with skidding deliveries during an incisive five-over spell of two wickets for 17 runs.
Smith, who survived a confident leg-before appeal off Shaheen first ball, also saw spinner Nauman Ali fail to hold a hard catch when he was on 19.
Khawaja, slower off the mark, hit Nauman for a six to release the pressure.
The tourists have kept their side unchanged while the hosts brought pacer Naseem Shah back to the playing eleven in place of all-rounder Faheem Ashraf.
The first two test matches of the series had ended in a draw with both sides giving tough time to bowlers. Skipper Babar Azam scored a memorable 196 in the second Test at the Karachi National Stadium and brought his name to the record books for the highest fourth-innings score by a captain, highest fourth-innings score by a Pakistani player, and most balls faced by a Pakistani player in fourth innings.
Lahore's Gaddafi stadium is Azam's home ground and will be staging a Test for the first time since a fatal terror attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009 caused international cricket to be suspended in Pakistan.
“Similar to the last couple of tests, this looks like a good wicket,” Australian skipper Pat Cummins said after winning the toss. He was of the view that the track would be helpful for spinners on days four and five of the game.
Cummins said the team was with the tour and expressed hope for finishing the tour “very well.” He added that the team would look for taking the opportunities available on a track, which is not fast like Australia or other places.
Pakistani skipper Babar Azam said that he would have also decided to bat first on winning the toss because the wicket “looked good”. He was also of the same view that the pitch would help the spinners on the third and fourth day of the game.
Babar added that the team would continue the fighting momentum is kept in the last match, which was saved by him, Abdullah Shafique, and wicketkeeper batter Babar Azam.
More to follow