If the Test match at Rawalpindi was a stalemate then the one at Karachi just burst into life. It produced moments to saviour and it started to build into a nail-biter as the day progressed.
A thrilling stalemate in Karachi ?
It ebbed and flowed in the final session but Pakistan, led by centuries from Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, have managed to draw the second Test.#WTC23 | https://t.co/lcSa2P7Q3l pic.twitter.com/KiSCEEaDIO
— ICC (@ICC) March 16, 2022
On Day 1, In-form Usman Khawaja scored a memorable first Test century in the country of his birth, as Australia capitalised on favourable batting conditions to control the opening day of the second Test against Pakistan.
After skipper Pat Cummins won a crucial toss and elected to bat, Khawaja scored his 11th Test century to lead Australia to 251 for 3 at stumps. He finished 127 not out from 266 balls.
But Australia suffered a late blow almost out of nowhere when Steven Smith fell for 72 in the penultimate over before stumps after Faheem Ashraf took a stunning one-hand catch at second slip off Hasan Ali.
The pair had compiled a 159-run partnership as they batted nearly two sessions to blunt an uninspiring Pakistan, which resorted to defensive tactics during a dull final session reminiscent of the dreary Rawalpindi Test.
Khawaja became the first Australian to score a Test century in Pakistan since Mark Waugh’s 117 during the third Test in 1998. Having been dismissed on 97 in the first Test, the left-hander spent a considerable time in the 90s on either side of tea before notching his milestone with a single to square leg off Sajid Khan. He jumped in the air and pumped his fist in a more muted celebration than after his comeback ton during the SCG Ashes Test.
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) March 16, 2022
Mixing exquisite strokes with watchful defence, Khawaja notched his third century from six innings since his recall in January.
On Day 2, Cummins resisted declaring late on day two of the second Test with Australia preferring grinding a weary Pakistan into the ground, as they passed 500 in their first innings on a Karachi pitch showing signs of deterioration.
Australia reached the close in a commanding position at 505 for 8 with Mitchell Starc 28 not out and Cummins yet to score.
Starc and Alex Carey batted almost through the entire final session in an attempt to break the back of Pakistan.
Cummins is set to face scrutiny for not sending Pakistan in late on the day although Australia gave a clear indication they want to bat just once in this pivotal match in a belief the pitch will deteriorate further. Australia batted their highest number of overs in an innings in Asia since 1956, but inconsistent bounce and sharp turn was evident later in the day.
— Dimuth Karunarathna (@IamDimuth) March 16, 2022
Carey fell for 93 just before stumps and agonisingly short of his maiden century after batting fluently to energise an otherwise dull final session, where everyone was seemingly waiting for Australia’s declaration but it never came.
Australia’s indefatigable innings was dominated by Khawaja’s brilliant 160 off 369 balls as he fell just short of his highest Test score of 174 against New Zealand at the Gabba in 2015.
His 11th Test century – and first in the country of his birth – was marked by unwavering concentration, but he could only score 33 runs off 103 balls on day two underlining the changing nature of the pitch.
There are cricketers who play and then there are cricketers who fight. Rizwan belongs the latter category. What a player. #PakvAus
— Mazher Arshad (@MazherArshad) March 16, 2022
Cummins resisted enforcing the follow-on after rampant quick Mitchell Starc delivered a reverse swing masterclass against a hapless Pakistan batting order to power Australia into an almost impregnable position in the second Test.
In their second innings, the visitors reached stumps on day three at 81 for 1 with an overall lead of 489. Marnus Labuschagne was 37* and Usman Khawaja unbeaten on 35 as Australia capped an almost flawless day’s play to be well poised to draw first blood in this historic series, the first played between the teams in Pakistan since 1998.
Cummins raised some eyebrows when he opted to bat again even though Australia had a massive first-innings lead of 408 after routing Pakistan for 148. It was Pakistan’s largest ever first-innings deficit, but Australia preferred sticking with their well-worn strategy of grinding the hosts into the ground as Cummins’ earlier decision to bat into day three appeared a masterstroke.
Australia dominated from the start of day three, with Cummins and Swepson adding a quickfire half-century partnership for the last wicket to frustrate Pakistan further. Cummins finally declared after 189 overs in their highest number of overs in an innings in Asia since 2000.
Justifying his selection over Josh Hazlewood, Starc was rewarded for his rapid bowling with the wicket of first-Test centurion Azhar Ali, who edged a full and wide delivery to Cameron Green at second slip. He then had Fawad Alam lbw for a golden duck with a searing yorker in the first delivery faced by the batter in the series.
Only Pakistani batter to face 400+ deliveries in the 4th innings of a Test, @babarazam258 joins Michael Atherton, Herbert Sutcliffe, Sunil Gavaskar.#BoysReadyHain l #PAKvAUS pic.twitter.com/0L9yH7BdGZ
— Pakistan Cricket (@TheRealPCB) March 16, 2022
The red-hot Starc, who went wicketless in Rawalpindi, almost completed a hat-trick when he beat Rizwan with a pearler of a good length delivery that swerved past the edge. But Cummins removed Rizwan shortly after with a gem and was unlucky to finish with a solitary wicket.
Debutant legspinner Mitchell Swepson wasn’t greatly required but claimed his maiden Test wicket when he dismissed captain Babar Azam who miscued a well-flighted legbreak.
The 28-year-old, who is Australia’s first specialist Test legspinner since Bryce McGain in 2009, added another to finish with 2 for 32, but his most important contribution was running out opener Abdullah Shafique with a brilliant direct hit to start Pakistan’s rot.
All of Australia’s frontline bowlers shared in the spoils, with Green claiming his first Test wicket overseas when he trapped Faheem Ashraf lbw for 4. Even though they faced menacing bowling, Pakistan contributed to their demise with two disastrous run -outs and several reckless strokes, including in-form opener Imam-ul-Haq holing out on 20 straight after lunch in a tame dismissal against spinner Nathan Lyon.
Babar played a lone hand as he batted through the type of carnage reminiscent of Pakistan’s woes in Australia during the past two decades. Underlining their batting horror show, tailenders Nauman Ali and Shaheen Shah Afridi’s tenth wicket stand of 30 was Pakistan’s highest partnership of a feeble innings.
On Day 4, Babar Azam hit a stirring century and combined brilliantly with opener Abdullah Shafique to defy Australia’s push for victory, as Pakistan’s stubborn resistance left the second Test intriguingly poised ahead of the fifth day.
Some innings give victories,
but some build character. And the latter are always helpful in the long run. Character building innings and match from @babarazam258 and co. Well done to @patcummins30 and his men too, almost pulled off something special. ?? #PAKvAUS pic.twitter.com/nF712KNFnd
— Wasim Jaffer (@WasimJaffer14) March 16, 2022
Having played a lone hand in Pakistan’s first innings, Babar notched his sixth Test century – his first in two years – with a sweep over fine leg just before stumps. He let out a roar amid jubilation from a sparse crowd after which he and Shafique survived two overs against the second new ball and made it through to the close.
After Pakistan were reeling at 21 for 2, Babar and Shafique combined for a rousing partnership of 171 to thwart Australia’s attack and provide a flicker of hope for the hosts, who had been hapless for most of this match previously.
With oppressive conditions in Karachi throughout the match, the pitch is marked by widening cracks in a contrast to the docile Rawalpindi deck amid a stale first Test draw. There was a sharp turn and variable bounce evident, particularly earlier in Pakistan’s innings, but the pitch did not appear to deteriorate as the day wore on.
Babar and Shafique were mostly untroubled and blunted the bowling through almost two sessions in somewhat of a throwback to Rawalpindi when Australia claimed just four wickets in 239 overs. The visitors were left to rue two early chances against first-Test centurion Shafique, who started slowly before finding fluency after being joined at the crease by a positive Babar.
Babar Azam ??, going to be an exciting finish tomorrow. #PAKvAUS
— Ashwin ?? (@ashwinravi99) March 15, 2022
Shafique was dropped on 20 by Steven Smith, whose struggles at slip continued when he spilt a straightforward chance.
After Pakistan endured two horror run-outs in the first innings, Shafique was almost dismissed short of his crease for the second time in the Test only for Cameron Green’s throw from mid-on to miss the stumps.
Swepson looked more comfortable the second time around and occasionally conjured sharp fizz much like his hero Shane Warne, who mentored him.
Late in the day, he was entrusted by Pat Cummins to break the partnership as Swepson bowled from around the wicket aiming for the rough patch outside the leg stump of the two right-hand batters with four catchers around the bat, but a confident Babar continually padded the ball away to frustrate Australia.
Cummins, who has seemingly made all the right moves in this Test, turned to himself before stumps and conjured sharp swing with the second new ball but to no avail.
It has been a brave effort from Pakistan amid some expectation that Australia could wrap up victory inside four days after dominating since the get-go. Things appeared to be going to plan for Australia when Pakistan started their daunting task disastrously before lunch, as opener Imam-ul-Haq was plumb lbw for 1 to a sliding Nathan Lyon delivery. It completed a miserable match for Imam, who had fallen loosely to Lyon on 20 in the first innings after twin centuries in Rawalpindi.
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) March 15, 2022
Pakistan were intent on mere survival, with Azhar Ali stonewalling for 6 off 54 balls, but he fell lbw in the second over after lunch while ducking into a short Green delivery that skidded low. It was reminiscent of Glenn McGrath’s famous wicket against Sachin Tendulkar in Adelaide in 1999, but replays showed Azhar had gloved the ball before it hit his body as he trudged off ruing not calling for a review.
Earlier in the day, Australia gave themselves plenty of time to take a series lead after Cummins declared their second innings 25 minutes into day four with the score at 97, their third-lowest declaration in Tests.
The only other time Australia had declared both their innings in a Test in Asia was against India during the famous tied Test in Chennai in 1986.
On Day 5, Babar Azam survived a Cummins onslaught and then menacing spin bowling before tea to continue Pakistan’s remarkable resistance, with Australia still needing six wickets to claim the second Test.
— Andrew McGlashan (@andymcg_cricket) March 16, 2022
Babar Azam thwarted Australia with an extraordinary 196 as a gutsy Pakistan survived a dramatic late collapse to remarkably draw the second Test after batting through 171.4 overs to ensure the historic series remained deadlocked.
Against all the odds, Pakistan finished their marathon second innings at 443 for 7 with Mohammad Rizwan unbeaten on 104 and Nauman Ali on 0 off 18 balls. Pakistan fell short of a record run chase by 63 runs, but in getting through they achieved the second most overs survived in the fourth innings behind the timeless Test between South Africa and England in Durban in 1939.
Having endured a two-year century drought, Babar made up for lost time with his highest Test score and the highest fourth-innings score by a captain in Test history. Just as the match was petering out to a draw, there was a late twist in the final hour when Babar’s 425-ball epic ended when he prodded to bat-pad offspinner Nathan Lyon.
Finally getting the reward for his unwavering bowling, Lyon then picked up Faheem Ashraf on the next ball as Australia’s spirits lifted ahead of the third new ball. He didn’t claim a hat-trick but Lyon removed Sajid Khan shortly after and Australia suddenly needed just three wickets with eight overs left.
In a nerve-jangling passage, Australia had seven fielders around the bat for the bowling of Lyon and debutant Mitchell Swepson, who almost had the big wicket of Rizwan with 19 balls left only for Usman Khawaja to drop a low chance at extra cover.
Note: Input from ESPNcricinfo