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Mitch Marsh leads Australia’s fightback after early blows

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Melbourne: Australia fought back after early blows to take 241 runs lead over Pakistan on Day 3 of the second Test at Melbourne Cricket Ground here on Thursday.

At stumps, the hosts were 187-6 after dismissing Pakistan for 264 in the first session.

Mitchell Marsh played a very crucial knock of 96 runs after Australia were pushed to the wall as they crumbled 16/4 in their second innings after gaining a first-innings lead of 54 runs with the help of captain Pat Cummins’ five-fer.

Shaheen Shah Afridi picked up Usman Khawaja (0) and Marnus Labuschagne (4) in his two consecutive overs. Khawaja nicked behind the stumps to Mohammad Rizwan and Labuschagne was choked down the legside to leave Australia tottering at 6/2 at lunch.

The pattern continued post-lunch too.

Hamza bowled a double wicket maiden soon after lunch and Australia were reduced to 16-4. The left-arm pacer rattled David Warner’s stumps on the first ball of the over and then castled Travis Head for a duck on the next delivery.

Steven Smith and Mitchell Marsh stitched a perfect recovery for their side. The two batted together to add 153 runs to the total, ensuring Australia remained in the game after the early setback.

Hamza ended the partnership when Salman Ali Agha caught Marsh during the third session of Day Three. The Australian all-rounder was denied a century, falling for a 130-ball 96 studded with 13 boundaries.

Smith completed a gritty half-century (50, 176b, 3x4s) before he gloved it to Salman fielding at gully, falling to the trap set by Shaheen. Smith’s dismissal proved to be the final ball of the day.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Alex Carey (16 not out, 42b, 2x4s) remained unbeaten at the crease as Australia ended Day Three at 187-6 in 62.3 overs, leading by 241.

Pakistan resumed from their overnight score of 194-6 with Mohammad Rizwan and Aamir Jamal at the crease. The 45-run stand between the two was the second-highest partnership for Pakistan. Rizwan (42, 51b, 1×4, 1×6) was the first batter to walk back on Day Three when Australia captain Pat Cummins struck early to break the seventh-wicket partnership.

A 25-run eighth-wicket partnership between Shaheen and Aamir further helped reduce the deficit. Then, Shaheen (21, 28b, 4x4s) was trapped LBW by Nathan Lyon, with Pakistan slumping to 240-8 in the 70th over.

Cummins later dismissed Hasan Ali to complete his 10th five-wicket haul in Test cricket. Mir Hamza (2, 3b) was the last batter to fall in the innings. Lyon, who bagged four wickets, closed the innings as Pakistan were dismissed for 264 in 73.5 overs.

Brief Scores: Australia 318 (Marnus Labuschagne 63, Mitchell Marsh 41; Aamer Jamal 3-64, Mir Hamza 2-51, Hasan Ali 2-61, Shaheen Afridi 2-85) & 187/6 (Mitchell Marsh 96, Steve Smith 50; Shaheen Afridi 3-58, Mir Hamza 3-27) lead Pakistan 264 (Abdullah Shafique 62, Shan Masood 54; Pat Cummins 5-48, Nathan Lyon 4-73) by 241 runs

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