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The Big Six

The let-offs that allowed Yasir Shah to shine

by Roshan Gede 5 minute read

Yasir Shah stole the limelight with his maiden Test century, but it was the hosts smiling at the end of it all, as they reduced Pakistan to 39-3 after enforcing a follow-on on a rain-marred day in Adelaide.

Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc shared three wickets between them in the second innings after Pakistan rose from 89-6 to 302 all out in their first innings on Sunday, December 1. The visitors were still 248 behind Australia’s first innings score of 589-3 declared, when play was called off after the second rain interruption on third day of the second Test. Here’s a look at some of the major defining moments:

Smith keeps his distance as Yasir Shah survives a close call

54.2 Marnus Labuschagne to Yasir Shah, no run

Yasir looked determined right from the outset on day two and in fact, took more strike than Babar Azam during their 105-run stand. As the partnership began to frustrate the hosts, Paine tried out for different options including the part-time leg-spin of Marnus Labuschagne.

It almost paid off, as Yasir produced a thick outside edge while trying to defend a tossed-up delivery from Labuschagne low towards Steve Smith at first slip, who grabbed a low chance. The fielder wasn’t confident initially and so the on-field umpire sent it upstairs, signalling ‘not out’ as the soft signal. Replays indicated that Smith took it on the half-volley and Yasir stayed to frustrate Australia longer.

What went against Australia was that Smith was standing at least a couple of yards deep than the conventional slip position. He had already caught one on the bounce when Yasir had nicked one off Nathan Lyon earlier in the day. “Those would’ve been regulation knee-high catches had he been further upwards,” remarked Shane Warne on air.

Paine fluffs another opportunity

57.2 Nathan Lyon to Yasir Shah, no run

Lyon created quite a few chances in the morning session but all to no avail. He looked good to snare a wicket with his consistency and  Yasir decided to take the aggressive approach. The off-spinner tossed one nicely outside off and the batsman stepped down the track but got beaten by the dip, as the ball sneaked through between bat and pad through to the keeper.

The awkward bounce defeated Paine too, and the ball hit him high on the gloves before it popped out, giving enough time for Yasir to get back in. He was on 35 at the time and got another life a few overs later, when Labuschagne shelled a straight-forward chance off his own bowling.

Starc spoils Babar’s show

65.1 Babar Azam, c Tim Paine, b Mitchell Starc, 97 (132)

Babar Azam has been the brightest spot for Pakistan on this tour so far. He finished as the top run-scorer in the T20I series and followed that up with a gritty hundred in Brisbane. He looked set for another one, before Mitchell Starc got the better of him in the second over of his fresh spell.

The left-armer bowled one full and got it to leave the right-hander from around the wicket. With the milestone at the back of his mind, Babar went for the glory shot and attempted a booming drive through covers without any feet movement. The ball took the outside edge and the skipper moved quickly to his right to give Starc his fifth wicket. The moment was as disappointing for Babar as for his teammates, who were stood by the boundary ropes in anticipation of a hundred.

Starc though did what he knows best and trapped the new batsman Shaheen Afridi leg-before on the very next ball to get his sixth.

Yasir Shah gets his moment to savour

85.5, Josh Hazlewood to Yasir Shah, one run

Yasir hasn’t been at his best with the ball all series, but has shown some solid resistance with the bat. He was involved in two significant partnerships in the first Test in Brisbane, registering scores of 26 and 42, and on Sunday, he bettered that by registering his first ever three-figure score in Tests.

He faced 22 deliveries in the nineties, with six of those on 99 before he clipped one off Josh Hazlewood just over the mid-on fielder to get to the milestone. He had walked in to bat in the final session of day two with his side struggling at 89-6 and took his side past 300 with his enterprising 113-run knock.

He offered great support to Babar and was later joined by Mohammad Abbas, who gave him enough assistance during his 78-ball stay.

Half-injured Starc still too good for Pakistan

4.6, Azhar Ali, c Steve Smith b Mitchell Starc, 9 (8)

Pakistan lost opener Imam-ul-Haq in only the fourth over of their second innings and in walked skipper Azhar Ali. He was up against Starc in the next over, who jarred his feet in the delivery stride while bowling the first ball and looked in great discomfort.

He continued to bowl and got it in right areas, but the pain started looking unbearable. And yet, on the last ball of the over, he got the perfect result by inducing an outside edge off the right-hander’s blade, which was well caught by Steve Smith in the second slip. Starc pitched it very full and tempted Azhar Ali to drive. The Pakistan skipper went for it but a lack of movement resulted in him getting a genuine outside edge. Smith dived low to his right and grabbed an excellent catch to complete the task.

Hazlewood gets the better of Babar, yet again

9.6, Babar Azam, c Tim Paine b Josh Hazlewood, 8 (12)

Hazlewood had got the better of Babar in the first innings in Brisbane and he did that again with the pink ball in Adelaide. Babar walked in to bat with scores 104 and 94 in his previous too innings and the confidence showed straight away, as he played an exquisite back-foot punch through his favourite cover region off Starc early in his innings.

He didn’t get strike for the next two overs but looked in full control against Hazlewood, before the right-arm pacer got him with an absolute peach. After Babar successfully defended the first five balls, Hazlewood went wide of the crease for the last and angled it in, which moved away from the right-hander just at the last moment. Babar had to play at it and ended up getting an outside edge which Paine swallowed with ease. Hazlewood has now dismissed Babar six times in ten innings.

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