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Cummins cleans up again but Pakistan recover from collapse with wagging tail frustrating Aussies

3rd January, 2024
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3rd January, 2024
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Pat Cummins tore through Pakistan for the third straight innings as Australia took an early stranglehold of the Third Test at the SCG but the tourists fought hard with a wagging tail not only preventing a total collapse but putting up a decent score.

Cummins made it a trifecta of five-wicket hauls after taking 5-61 from 18 top-class overs following on from his 10-97 match haul at the MCG last week but after being bowled out late in the day for 313, it could have been much worse for Pakistan after both openers went without scoring.

They slumped to 4-47 and were teetering at 5-96 when skipper Shan Masood departed but wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan smacked 88 from 103 deliveries and tailender Aamer Jamal followed his lead with his maiden Test half-century as Pakistan’s lower order more than tripled the output from the top half.

Jamal at one stage produced a barely believable reverse sweep to smash Nathan Lyon for six as the last-wicket partnership with noted bunny Mir Hamza surged past 70.

The 27-year-old, in just his third Test, looked like he could even get to a century before he finally holed out at long on off Lyon for a belligerent 82.

Australia will resume at 0-6 on day two with retiring opener David Warner (six) at the crease and intent on finishing his career with a bang but the hosts have a lot more work to do than they would have expected after dominating the first couple of sessions.

Cummins now has 18 wickets for the series at a Scott Boland-esque average of 11.33, striking every 27.3 deliveries. He became the first Australian since Merv Hughes in 1988 to rack up three five-wicket hauls in successive innings on home soil.

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Pakistan were on the back foot early when Abdullah Shafique followed up his forgettable MCG Test by nicking the second ball of the match to Steve Smith at second slip off Mitchell Starc.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 03: Aamer Jamal of Pakistan plays a shot during day one of the Men's Third Test Match in the series between Australia and Pakistan at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 03, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Aamer Jamal plays a shot during day one of the Third Test between Australia and Pakistan in Sydney. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Debutant opening partner Saim Ayub suffered a similar fate when he snicked Josh Hazlewood’s second delivery from the next over and Alex Carey’s gloves did the rest.

Cummins’ stranglehold over Babar Azam continued when he produced another in-ducker, this time through the air with swing rather than vicious bite off the pitch, which bamboozled Pakistan’s premier batter and he was trapped in front for 26.

The Australian captain made quick work of Saud Shakeel, who hung his bat out at a ball he could have left alone and only hung himself out to dry by nicking through to Carey on five.

Mitchell Marsh should have had Masood out for 32 in the 25th over when he edged to Steve Smith at second slip but the third umpire called the visiting captain back after replays showed the Australian all-rounder overstepped the mark.

Marsh made up for it a short time later by removing Masood for 35 with another deflection to Smith in the same position.

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Agha Salman steadied the ship while Rizwan showed why he is a fixture at the top of the order for Pakistan in the white-ball arena by belting 10 fours and two sixes in his 103-ball innings.

He scooped Hazlewood with exceptional skill to clear the rope and then slogged Lyon a similar distance.

But just when it looked like he would reach triple figures, Rizwan was brought undone by being too measured.

He checked a hook shot off Cummins rather than trying to clear the boundary rope and only succeeded in offering Hazlewood a sharp chance in the deep.

“He’s an incredible bowler and I think if you look back at all the best bowlers in the history of cricket, they’ve always had that in them,” Marsh said of his skipper. 

“The ability to come on and take a wicket when the team needs to. There’s always going to be spells where he’s got his tail up and the ball’s swinging and nipping. 

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“But I think the best part about Patty is that he always finds a way for us.” 

After Salman and Rizwan put on 94 for the sixth wicket, the all-rounder (53), fellow spinner Sajid Khan (15) and fast bowler Hasan Ali (duck) were dismissed in quick succession and the end looked nigh with Pakistan at 9-227.

But the crowd of 33,905 were treated to a daytime pyrotechnic display of hitting from Jamal, who slashed his way to nine fours and four sixes.

The Australians had a poor day in the field by their lofty standards with Lyon spilling a tough chance off his own bowling, Usmam Khawaja shelling a chance in the cordon which should have been taken and Travis Head another at bat-pad while a couple of misfields gave Pakistan more of a helping hand.

Hamza played his role in holding up an end for seven runs (also his top score) from 43 deliveries, wearing a couple of bruises for his trouble as the Australian quicks tried to unsettle him with a bumper barrage.

“The discussion in our camp has been that as soon as our batters from No.7 and eight onward walk out to bat, they start targeting us with bouncers,” Aamer said. 

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“I had told the guys in the dressing-room that whatever they do and however often I get hit or wherever I get hit, I will go out and take on the bouncer today.”

It’s a pity the Pakistani brains trust didn’t show similar intent to fight when they selected their XI for this Test with pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi rested after the team lost the first two matches of the series.

“I’ve played two games [this series], and a lot of overs to be honest,” Shaheen said during an in-game interview with Seven. “They’re just managing my workload, the medical team and team management decided to take a rest for this [Test].”

It’s even worse that Shaheen seems to believe that it’s the right option to rest up before a five-match T20 series against New Zealand.

Even though this is a dead rubber, the plague of Test cricketers putting T20 matches – both international and franchise affairs – ahead of the traditional format is spreading, putting yet another chink in the armour of the five-day game.

Pakistan’s surprising late resistance presented Warner with a tricky situation in his final Test – they batted long enough so that one over needed to be bowled in the shortest session possible before stumps.

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Warner looked full of energy in the field after walking onto the field with his three daughters before the start of play but unfortunately for him, the baggy green cap that was lost in transit between Melbourne and Sydney has still not been located.

He caressed the opening ball from Sajid through the covers for a boundary and added a couple more before nearly getting bowled when a defensive prod bounced millimetres over his bails.

Warner walked off the pitch with a steely resolve as he has now set himself up nicely for a farewell knock to remember on his beloved home turf on day two of his final Test.

Despite Pakistan’s top-order wobbles, the pitch looks to be a runs-friendly surface and with the best visiting bowler putting his feet up in the pavilion, the stage is set for Warner and the Australian batters to send the 37-year-old out on a winning note.

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