Recent Match Report – Australia vs Pakistan 3rd Test 2023/24


Innings Australia 299 (Labuschagne 60, Marsh 54, Jamal 6-69, Salman 2-43) trail Pakistan 313 by 14 runs

Fast bowler Aamer Jamal crashed through Australia’s lower-order after tea on day three as Pakistan gained a first innings lead of 14 runs with a see-saw third Test at the SCG hanging in the balance.

Australia appeared to be inching towards a valuable lead when in-form Mitchell Marsh scored his fourth consecutive half-century and combined with Alex Carey in a partnership of 84 runs.

But Carey was bowled by spinner Sajid Khan for 38 on the stroke of tea to trigger a stunning collapse of 5 for 10.

Marsh fell on 54 in the second over after tea when he mistimed Jamal to mid-off and two balls later Pat Cummins was out lbw after missing a full toss in a decision overturned by DRS.

Jamal claimed his second five-wicket haul when he dismissed Nathan Lyon with Saud Shakeel’s low catch at gully needing replays before being given out. The quick then capped Pakistan’s remarkable resurgence when he removed Josh Hazlewood for a duck to finish with 6 for 69 from 21.4 overs.

Pakistan’s hopes of ending a 16-Test losing streak in Australia have been lifted with the SCG surface expected to deteriorate as the match wears on with the expanding rough patches set to be particularly helpful for spin.

Pakistan recovered well after Marsh was given a life by debutant Saim Ayub, who dropped a chance at mid-off after diving forward off the bowling of spinner Salman Agha. It’s been a tough initiation into Test cricket for Ayub, who earlier in the innings had spilt retiring opener David Warner in a sitter at first slip after making a second ball duck in Pakistan’s first innings.

The contest had edged towards Pakistan when Australia fell to 205 for 5 shortly into the second session. Travis Head, normally aggressive, played within himself during a tricky 20-minute period before lunch and scored just 6 off 25 balls. Head could never get going and he was given out lbw shortly after the interval when he was trapped on the front pad by Jamal in a decision upheld by DRS.

Pakistan delayed taking the second new ball as Salman, who has outbowled specialist spinner Sajid, tried to lure Marsh into playing a rash stroke. But a patient Marsh picked off rare loose deliveries to continue his rich vein of form since a memorable ton in his Test comeback during the Ashes at Headingley.

The second new ball was taken in the 92nd over after left-arm quick Mir Hamza returned to the attack, but Marsh countered with a superb straight drive to the boundary. Marsh and Carey seemed to enjoy the harder ball as scoring became easier.

Carey entered the summer under pressure after being dropped early in Australia’s title run at the World Cup but a crucial second-innings half-century at the MCG provided him with a much-needed boost. He continued his momentum with several spectacular strokes through his favoured off-side as the duo brought up a fifty stand in quick time.

Marsh did have an anxious moment on 31 when he was given out lbw off seamer Hasan Ali after being hit on the back leg attempting a pull shot, but the decision was overturned on DRS due to height.

Australia had threatened to gain control earlier in the day when Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith overcame a short-ball barrage in a 79-run third-wicket partnership only to fall before lunch.

After a shortened day two was reduced to 46 overs due to bad light and rain, Labuschagne and Smith were pinned down against accurate bowling from Hasan and Hamza as they produced five consecutive maidens.

Jamal sought a short-ball approach as he continued from his plan against the batters before play had stopped on day two. With the slips taken out and a slew of fielders on the leg-side, Jamal bent his back and bowled a lively spell but was thwarted.

Smith, who has struggled for some time against short-pitched bowling, did have a narrow escape when he almost hit to short midwicket.

Looking to shrug off a lean 2023, where he averaged 35 in Test cricket, Labuschagne was patient but assured and reached his half-century with a superb pull shot as he dealt with Hasan’s modest pace with ease.

There was a delay for several minutes after Smith complained about a small piece of rolled up black tape that was on the white canopy behind the sightscreen.

Once a groundsman cleared the object, a more content Smith used his feet to club Salman down the ground in a rare sign of aggression.

Pakistan reverted their tactics when Hamza re-entered the attack and the off-side was filled with catchers. The change of plan worked when Smith on 38 hit straight to cover and he looked in disbelief at the pitch before trudging off.

In the next over, Salman clean bowled Labuschagne for 60 with a spectacular delivery that spun sharply off the rough.

The third day of the traditional New Year’s Test is dedicated to Australia great Glenn McGrath’s late wife, Jane, who died of breast cancer in 2008.

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth

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