Key events

71st over: Australia 210-4 (Labuschagne 54, Marsh 1) Great breakthrough for Pakistan and just reward for Shaheen who has bowled without much luck in the two Tests so far. It came courtesy of a fabulous catch by Salman who dived a body length to his left and took the grab with his left hand, rolling expertly to ensure the ball didn’t jar loose. Head departs and with it a bit of adrenaline seeps from the crowd… but not too much as Mitchell Marsh strides outt. He takes a single from the first and Labuschagne clips a boundary from the fifth to reach his half century.

WICKET! Head c Salman b Shaheen 17 (Australia 204-4)

Faster ball from Shaheen and Head reaches for it, getting a thick edge and sending it to the flying Salman at first slip. Loose shot. Great catch!

70th over: Australia 204-3 (Labuschagne 49, Head 17) Here comes Hasan Ali again. One of the new inclusions for this Test, the 29-year-old Punjabi is looking to get a promising 22 Test career back on track after bursting onto the cricket scene as Player of the Champions League in 2017 where he topped the tournament averages with 13 scalps at 14.69. He holds the line well here, five dot balls and then a weird moment only cricket can deliver. A fat white butterfly – perhaps a stand-in for the dove Usman Khawaja wanted on his shoes? – flutters across the line and Labuschagne withdraws late. A dot ball ensues.

69th over: Australia 204-3 (Labuschagne 49, Head 17) Labuschagne’s single off the first ball brings up the fifty partnership for these two. It comes off just 63 balls, a significant acceleration on the 30-40 strike-rate of yesterday. These two are the only Australians in the XI under the age of 30 (Head hits 30 on Thursday, Marnus in June) so younger legs and youthful intent at the crease. Not so here as Head sees off Shaheen’a final five without scoring.

68th over: Australia 203-3 (Labuschagne 48, Head 17) Head hammers his first ball for four! It wasn’t a bad delivery by Hasan Ali but Head crashed it through covers to the fence. He gives the third ball a biff as well. It was wide and WHACK! He square drove it to the fence to get scoring rattling along.

67th over: Australia 195-3 (Labuschagne 48, Head 9) Shaheen Afridi went wicketless yesterday but he starts on target today, whistling his first two past Labuschagne’s forward defensive prod. The third is over-pitched and Marnus clips it off his toes and sends it to the fence. Lovely stuff Marnie! The fourth is down leg and – bat? pad? – deflects it down legside for three. Umpire indicates leg bye and Labuschagne shakes his head like a laughing clown at Luna Park. I know he needs runs – he averages only 37 from his 13 Tests this year – but not by stealing sundries…

The early clouds have parted and blue skies have arrived. On field the rollers are off and players are on. Here comes the first ball of day two from Shaheen Afridi to Marnus Labuschagne …

On a more serious note, Usman Khawaja took to the MCG with messages of support on his shoes and opening partner David Warner in his corner. Heartfelt as they were, they were very different from what Uzzy intended

Pakistan did their best to brighten a murky Day One for an MCG crowd of over 60k with some of truly vaudevillian fielding. It’s been an ongoing issue for Pakistan cricket over the years it seems…

For those who came in late, here’s what went down (apart from catches) on day one …

Preamble

Greetings cricket fans and welcome to day two of the Boxing Day Test between Australia and Pakistan in Melbourne. Angus Fontaine here with a bellyful of ham (and a fridge full of dodgier-by-the minute prawns) to guide you through the first half. Geoff Lemon will pad up after lunch.

A big day looms for both teams – and all us spectators. Australia battled through a lost toss, bad weather and good bowling to land at 187 for 3 at stumps from 66 overs with Marnus Labuschagne to resume on 44 and Travis Head on nine. Pakistan bowled beautifully in patches yesterday and must do so again today if they’re to wrestle the series ledger back to 1-1.

Day one lost 20 overs to rain but the bigger deal was that Pakistan lost the chance to scruff this Test by dropping several catches, including Shafique’s early shocker at slip when David Warner was on two. In his penultimate Test, Warner was eventually out for 38 on the last ball before lunch, having reached 18,515 runs across all formats, eclipsing Steve Waugh’s 18,496.

Warner has since described his performance as “lazy” and the same tag could be applied to his opening partner’s dismissal. Having eased to 42, Usman Khawaja played a poor shot off Hasan Ali after lunch. Steve Smith won’t be happy with his typically weird and pernickety innings either, out to Aamer Jamal for 26 after surviving an lbw shout a few minutes prior.

Honours even I reckon. Pakistan have plenty to play for and something to build on, having kept the scoring rate below 40 all day despite fielding sloppier than that displayed by the shickered uncles and cordial-fuelled grommets in my back yard on Christmas Day. The day two forecast looks sunny but with that man Travis Head at the crease, thunder and lightning is always a chance.



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