Mitchell Starc took six wickets in the first innings and got the wicket of Azhar Ali as Australia closed in on a win in the Adelaide Test against Pakistan. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Pakistan's top order had been blown away on a consistent basis on their tour to Australia, be it the T20I or Test format. In the Adelaide Pink Ball Test, the bowlers let them down and the top order floundered under the pace of Mitchell Starc and the accuracy of Josh Hazlewood to be reduced to 96/6. It took Yasir Shah, batting at No.8 and some partnerships with the lower order to show the Pakistan top order how to bat in Australia. Yasir's maiden ton gave them something to smile about but Pakistan's top order refused to learn after following on to be three down on a rain-curtailed day 3 of the Day Night Test. When Pakistan resumed, it looked like it would just be a three-day finish.
However, Babar Azam had other ideas and he was given good support by Yasir Shah. Yasir gave solid company while Babar Azam looked to be more confident. Babar notched up his fifty with two fours off Josh Hazlewood. Yasir focused on stonewalling the attack and he capitalised on some loose balls to build a solid partnership. Yasir survived a stumping chance when Tim Paine fluffed the opportunity off Nathan Lyon. Azam entered the 90s with two fours off Marnus Labuschagne and Yasir went on to register his highest individual score. Australia did not make things easy for themselves when Labuschagne dropped a simple chance off his own bowling to give Yasir a second life.
The partnership for the seventh wicket went past 100 but Starc broke Pakistan hearts when he had Babar Azam caught for 97 and in the next ball dismissed Shaheen Afridi to take six wickets. However, Yasir once again stonewalled and went past his fifty. He found good support in Mohammad Abbas as he went past fifty with two fours off Nathan Lyon. After the tea break, Yasir made smooth progress while Abbas smashed a couple of boundaries and a six to keep Pakistan in the hunt.
Yasir had another slice of luck as a top-edged sweep off Lyon landed safely and he crossed the 90s with two fours off Starc. In the 86th over, Yasir finally created history when he lofted Hazlewood over mid off to complete a magical century and enter a special club of Pakistan players. Yasir Shah became the first Pakistan player batting at number eight to hit a century in Australia and he became the seventh Pakistan player at No.8 to hit a Test century overseas after Ijaz Faqih, Imran Khan, Kamran Akmal, Moin Khan, Saqlain Mushtaq and Wasim Akram.
Top order still flounders
The efforts of Yasir, Babar and the lower order was only a small silver lining in the dark cloud hovering around Pakistan and their performance. After being dismissed for 302 and trailing by 287 runs, Tim Paine asked Pakistan to follow-on and just before the dinner break when Imam-ul-Haq was trapped LBW by an inswinger from Hazlewood. Starc had some issues in the popping crease and he apparently seemed to jarr his ankle.
In visible discomfort, Starc proceeded to get the big wicket of Pakistan skipper Azhar Ali but Hazlewood dealt Pakistan the ultimate blow when he got rid of their talisman Babar Azam with an away-swinger for 8. Shan Masood and Asad Shafiq held firm before a short rain break stopped play. When play resumed after 25 minutes, Australia hunted wickets but a second rain delay meant that stumps were called with still an hour to go. With Pakistan staring down the barrel, Monday could witness an inglorious world record being created and questions will be raised about the way Misbah-ul-Haq is handling the team.