Martyn makes it Australia's day
Pakistan 341 and 5 for 85 lead Australia 379 (Martyn 142, Gillespie 50*, Langer 50, Shoaib 5-109, Kaneria 5-125) by 47 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Australia began the day behind the eight-ball, trailing by 138 runs with their last recognised pair at the crease. By the end of a riveting day of Test cricket at Melbourne, they had taken charge with another awesome performance with both bat and ball to underline why they are so far ahead of the rest of the pack. Damien Martyn led the way with a sublime 142, with generous support from Jason Gillespie (50 not out). Then, the bowlers struck, reducing Pakistan to 5 for 85, an overall lead of just 47.
If Yousuf Youhana's knock on the first day was sublime, then Martyn's hundred was a masterclass of equal, if not higher, quality, by a batsman who has made it a habit this year to bail his team out of trouble - four of his six centuries during this period have been in back-to-the-wall situations. Unbeaten on 67 overnight, Martyn hardly put a foot wrong till he was finally trapped in front by Danish Kaneria, a decision which replays showed was a bit harsh. Martyn lost Adam Gilchrist early in the day after a brief flourish, and Shane Warne fell soon after in a morning session reduced to 45 minutes due to rain. At 7 for 254, Australia were in serious strife, but Martyn found an able ally in Gillespie, and the two slowly went about neutralising Pakistan's advantage.
Pace and spin came alike to Martyn, as he uncorked some gorgeous strokes all around the park. Danish Kaneria bowled from round the wicket and tried to exploit the rough created by the bowlers' footmarks, but Martyn countered it with superb footwork, rocking back to cut, and traipsing down the pitch to drive through wide mid-on. Against pace, he was equally assured: Mohammad Sami charged in with the second new ball, only to be caressed through the covers and then carved past mid-off with a stroke which bordered on the arrogant. And when Sami pitched it short, Martyn was ready with the cut - a shot over which he showed absolute mastery, playing various versions of it to guide the ball in the arc from square third man to cover. Shoaib Akhtar tested him with the short stuff and more verbal barrage, but Martyn had an answer to both - he weaved out of the short ones, and simply turned his back to Akhtar's verbal attack.
Martyn was scintillating, but Gillespie played a vital hand as well, adding 93 priceless runs with Martyn for the eighth wicket. He was solid in defence against Kaneria, and wasn't afraid to take a few knocks on the body when Akhtar peppered him with short balls from round the wicket. His secure defence allowed Martyn to play his normal game without bothering to farm the strike. After Martyn was dismissed, Gillespie took over the aggressor's role with aplomb, smashing Sami for a magnificent straight six and then dismissing Akhtar over midwicket twice in an over with strokes which brought the crowd to their feet.
Pakistan were hampered in the field by the absence of Abdul Razzaq and Shoaib Malik - Razzaq was hospitalised after complaining of dizziness while Malik split a webbing in his hand. Kaneria and Akhtar toiled manfully, and each ended with a five-for, but by the time Glenn McGrath was trapped in front after helping Gillespie to his second Test fifty of the season, Australia had struck plenty of psychological blows, which they followed with more blows when Pakistan came out to bat.
Salman Butt, so impressive in the first innings, last a mere four balls this time around, closing the face of his bat too soon when attempting to flick McGrath. Imran Farhat, his opening partner, was trapped on the pull stroke, playing a hopeless irresponsible hoick off Gillespie (2 for 13). Yasir Hameed flourished briefly, cutting and driving outside off, but one always sensed that he was being set up. He duly fell soon, cutting a delivery which bounced unexpectedly and was too close to his body, and Pakistan had lost three top-order wickets while still in the arrears.
Younis Khan and Yousuf Youhana, the stars of the first innings, raised visions of a fightback, before Youhana was defeated by Warne's guile and by some poor luck. Having troubled him with sharp turn and excellent variations of line, length and pace, Warne fired in a straighter one which defeated Youhana's bat, thudded into his pad, and went to Ricky Ponting at silly point. The Australians were convinced, and so was Rudi Koertzen (4 for 60). And when Younis miscued a hook off Michael Kasprowicz, Pakistan were five down and only 30 in front. Malik and Sami ensured there were no further setbacks, but with a lead of only 47, and with Razzaq not fully fit, Pakistan were staring down the barrel.
S Rajesh is assistant editor of Cricinfo.