Azam dismissal offsets morning of steady accumulation

Lunch Pakistan 2 for 60 (Azhar 26*) v Australia
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Steven Smith took both catches as Australia struck twice in the morning session © AFP

Pakistan lost Babar Azam on the stroke of lunch to offset a morning of steady accumulation after visiting captain Misbah-ul-Haq won an important toss in the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.

Nathan Lyon‘s dismissal of Sami Aslam with his third ball caused a tumult of celebration for a festive season crowd of more than 50,000, but for the most part, the touring batsmen worked assiduously at building a first-innings platform on a surface that offered some seam movement and bounce, albeit at a lesser pace than Brisbane. Babar made it to the final ball of the session before edging Josh Hazlewood to slips.

Until then, Azhar Ali and Babar absorbed plenty of pressure from Australia’s pacemen, though both Mitchell Starc and Hazlewood appeared to be slightly down on their optimum pace after the physical toll taken on them by the conclusion to the Gabba Test, in which Pakistan came so close to reeling in a target of 490 for victory.

The visitors made one change, swapping Sohail Khan for Rahat Ali, while the hosts retained the XI that has won each of the past two home Tests, both day-night affairs. Australia captain Steven Smith also said he would have batted first on a fine and humid day, albeit with some chance of showers later on.

Among the chief nuisances to players on both sides was an unusually large swarm of flies in the arena, which required the use of plenty of repellant and also compelled Azhar to pull away at the last moment from a Hazlewood delivery.

While there was some movement on offer for the bowlers, none of the home seamers was consistent enough to find the edges that Smith and his slip cordon were seeking. Ultimately, it was Lyon who broke the opening stand shortly before morning drinks, finding spin and bounce with his third ball to dismiss Sami.

Not another chance was had until the final over of the session, when Hazlewood got his line and length exactly right and drew an edge from Babar, which Smith held in the ends of his fingers to take Australia to lunch in a buoyant mood.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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