Australia trails Pakistan by 27 runs in first Test

Australia, playing its first Test in Pakistan since 1998, reached 449 for seven at Stumps in its first innings on Day 4 with Marnus Labuschagne (90) and Steve Smith (78) scoring half centuries.

Australia's Steve Smith (right) and Cameron Green run between the wickets during the fourth day of the first Test between Pakistan and Australia at the Pindi Stadium in Rawalpindi on Monday.   -  AP

Australia's batters flourished on a flat wicket on Monday to cut Pakistan's lead to 27 runs as the first Test heads toward a draw.

Australia, playing its first Test in Pakistan since 1998, reached 449 for seven at Stumps in its first innings on Day 4 on a grassless wicket with Marnus Labuschagne (90) and Steve Smith (78) scoring half centuries. Cameron Green (48) showed himself to be a Test all-rounder by spending more than two hours at the crease, facing 109 balls.

No. 8 batter Mitchell Starc spent almost the last hour and was not out on 12 with skipper Pat Cummins not out on 4 as stumps were drawn three overs before scheduled because of bad light.

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Pakistan had declared its first innings at 476 for four late on Day 2 on the back of big centuries from Azhar Ali (185) and Imam-ul-Haq (157).

Opening batter Usman Khawaja narrowly missed out on a century in the country of his birth on Sunday when he was dismissed for 97, but shared a rapid 156-run opening wicket stand with David Warner, who made 68.

On a docile wicket where there was no appreciable turn for the spinners, left-arm spinner Nauman Ali grabbed four for 107 mainly because Australia's batters went for extravagant shots.

Labuschagne was the second Australian batter to fall in the 90s when he was caught in the slip in Shaheen Afridi’s (one for 80) third over with the new ball after a wet outfield, following overnight rain, prevented any play in the first session.

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Labuschagne hit 12 boundaries in his knock but attempted a drive off a wide delivery from Afridi as Abdullah Shafique grabbed a well judged low catch in the lone slip.

Travis Head (8) was a rare batter to fail in a batter-dominated Test match when he edged Nauman to wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan while going for a cut shot as Pakistan claimed two wickets in the mid session.

Green showed lot of determination in his 81-run stand with Smith before Nauman induced false strokes from both batters by bowling consistently outside the leg stump line in the last session.

Green smashed two of his three boundaries in Nauman’s one over but top-edged a sweep to short fine leg. Smith also went for a similar shot and was caught by Rizwan down the leg side.

Smith, who hasn’t scored a Test century since the 2019 Ashes, batted for nearly five hours, hitting eight fours during his 196-ball knock before he was nicely setup by Nauman to go for an over ambitious shot.

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