Pakistan in driving seat against Australia in second Test

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Pakistan inched closer to wrapping up a Test series victory over Australia on a day where Azhar Ali’s bizarre run out and Babar Azam’s 99 hogged the headlines in Abu Dhabi.

The tourists closed on 47 for one at the end of an eventful day three of the second and final Test after being set a world record victory target of 538, with Pakistan declaring their second innings on 400 for nine.

Babar top-scored but despairingly fell one run short of a maiden Test century while Azhar’s comical dismissal set tongues wagging on social media.

Azhar would have been eyeing a 15th Test hundred on Thursday morning but was left bemused in the ninth over of the day when he was given out for 64, moments after thinking he had dispatched Peter Siddle for four.

However, the thick outside edge past gully actually stopped a couple of feet short of the boundary rope, unbeknown to either Azhar or batting partner Asad Shafiq.

Australia were alert to the situation though and, as the Pakistan batsmen were chatting mid-pitch, Mitchell Starc’s throw led to captain Tim Paine whipping off the bails before either Azhar or Shafiq could grasp what was unfolding.

The dismissal did little to change Australia’s fortunes, though, as Pakistan forged their way past 300 thanks to Shafiq (44) and Babar.

Babar and Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed then looked to take the Test away from their opponents.

The pair put on 133 for the sixth wicket but the stand was ended when Babar was trapped in front by Mitchell Marsh, the batsman failing to overturn the decision on review to agonisingly depart one run short of a first Test ton.

Sarfraz fell short of three figures, too, as he followed up his 94 in the first innings with 81 second time around.

Pakistan declared shortly afterwards and made almost immediate inroads into Australia’s batting line-up.

Shaun Marsh had replaced the injured Usman Khawaja at the top of the order but lasted just six deliveries as he was castled by one that clipped the top of off-stump which gave Mir Hamza his first Test wicket.

Aaron Finch (24no) and Travis Head (17no) avoided any further setbacks but Australia face a mountainous challenge to save or win the game with two days remaining and a minimum of 180 overs to be bowled.

Khawaja, Australia’s saviour from the drawn first Test, did not take to the field on Thursday after injuring his knee in the warm-up.

Even if he is fit to bat on Friday, International Cricket Council rules state the left-hander cannot take to the field in the first two hours of Australia’s innings or until they have lost five wickets.

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