A pulsating day 3 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground between Australia and Pakistan has left the Boxing Day Test on the knife's edge. With a sizeable lead of 241 and 4 more wickets left, Australia could be a touch ahead in the match, but Pakistan will start believing if they dismiss the remaining batters without conceding many runs.
The visitors did their best to reduce the deficit in the first session of the day as Mohammad Rizwan and Aamer Jamal offered resistance, adding 45 before Pat Cummins removed the former. Shaheen Shah Afridi came out and blasted 4 boundaries in his cameo of 21, while Hasan Ali also added some useful runs. Cummins, who had taken 3 wickets on day 2, ended up with a fifer.
Mir Hamza and Shaheen Shah Afridi make the ball talk:
Having conceded a lead of 54, the visitors brought the fight to Australia's batters as Shaheen Shah Afridi got the better of Marnus Labuschagne and Usman Khawaja. At the other side of lunch, Mir Hamza stunned David Warner and Travis Head by re-arranging their stumps in consecutive deliveries, with Australia only ahead by 70.
Steve Smith and Mitchell Marsh survived several close shaves on a pitch that kept seaming consistently. Notably, Marsh got a reprieve when he went with hard hands on 20, with Abdullah Shafique committing one more offence in the series. While Marsh was the aggressor in the partnership with Smith, the latter kept Pakistan bowlers with bay with his monk-like patience.
Mir Hamza and Shaheen Shah Afridi tilt the scales in Pakistan's favour again:
Hamza finally broke through when Marsh was on 96 with a nipping delivery as Agha Salman held on to one at first slip, with the all-rounder's family left distraught at the stands. It was down to Smith, who scored one of his slowest half-centuries. However, Afridi's vicious bouncer got the better of Smith in the final delivery of the day, giving the visitors a big lift.
With Pakistan into the bowlers now, they will smell blood, but Alex Carey could still be the game-changer for Australia with Pat Cummins, who is an equally capable batter.