Australia v Pakistan, 1st Test, Melbourne, 3rd day

Shane Watson restores Australian dominance

The Bulletin by Alex Brown

December 28, 2009

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Australia 3 for 111 (Watson 64*, Aamer 2-43) and 5 for 454 dec lead Pakistan 258 (Misbah 65*, Umar 51, Johnson 3-36) by 307 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details


Shane Watson plays it to the on side, Australia v Pakistan, 1st Test, Melbourne, 3rd day, December 28, 2009
Shane Watson helped Australia overcome an early burst by Mohammad Aamer with an unbeaten 64 © Getty Images
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Mohammad Aamer breathed life into the Boxing Day Test with a spell of aggressive and precise pace bowling, but another half-century from the dependable Shane Watson restored Australia's position of dominance. Having played a leading role in guiding Pakistan past the follow-on target earlier in the day, Aamer returned with the new ball to dismiss Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey in the final session before engaging in a fearsome, though ultimately unsuccessful, duel with Watson.

His bowling, in union with the miserly Mohammad Asif, at one stage reduced Australia to 3 for 40 in their second innings, but the settling influences of Watson and Michael Clarke allowed the hosts to add a further 71 runs without loss by stumps. That took Australia's overall lead to 307 with two days to play, almost certainly ensuring that Pakistan will face a ground record fourth-innings target when sent into bat sometime on Tuesday.

Asif, whose unerring accuracy was reflected by his sub-two economy rate, was first to strike in Australia's second innings, removing Simon Katich who caught-behind to a prod outside off-stump. Aamer continued the assault on the hosts' top order, claiming Ponting to a miscued pull - fulfilling Chris Gayle's prophecy - and Michael Hussey to an angling lbw decision that was upheld by the video umpire.

With the adrenaline flowing, Aamer turned his attention to the flammable Watson and pulses quickened across the ground. The Australian opener, who had driven elegantly and frequently in the early stages of his innings, was forced to defend a series of short-pitched deliveries around the 150 kmh mark, several of which Aamer followed with blown kisses.

While entertaining, Aamer's ploy failed to rattle his Australian adversary. Watson raised his second half-century of the match - and seventh in 12 innings as Test opener - with a pull to the boundary off Saeed Ajmal and advanced his total to an unbeaten 64 by stumps.

Pakistan will require quick wickets on the fourth day if they are to remain competitive in the match, and will be forced to do so without the assistance of the video umpire. Aamer and Abdur Rauf burned both Pakistan's challenges with unsuccessful lbw appeals; Hussey also used up one of Australia's after disputing the lbw decision that ultimately led to his demise.

Earlier, Australia's pacemen ruthlessly exposed the length and frailty of the Pakistani tail, claiming five wickets after lunch to terminate the tourists' first innings for 258. Doug Bollinger proved the chief destroyer, reaping the rewards for probing lengths and attacking lines with the wickets of Aamer, who proved a most stubborn nightwatchman, as well as Kamran Akmal and Rauf.

The removal of Aamer two deliveries after accepting the second new ball was a classic fast bowlers' dismissal - the batsman fending a short, snarling delivery to the body - and triggered a collapse in which Pakistan lost five wickets for 99 in 17.3 overs. Bollinger favoured a fuller length to remove Akmal and Rauf, both caught by the wicketkeeper while attempting to push forward, showcasing a shrewd fast-bowling intellect to complement his bullyboy capabilities.

Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson rounded off the second session rout, accounting for Mohammad Asif and Ajmal. Only half-centuries from Misbah-ul-Haq (65 not out) and the impressive Umar Akmal (51) allowed Pakistan to avoid the follow-on.

Umar proved a one-man highlight reel in the first hour of play, showing little regard for the Australian bowlers or the reverse-swinging ball. His penchant for advancing on Watson, Australia's best exponent of reverse swing, disrupted both bowler and wicketkeeper, and his treatment of Siddle in his 17th over bordered on the disdainful.

Having been struck a nasty blow to the helmet by Siddle the previous over, Umar opted for a change in strategy in the period prior to lunch. A fullish delivery was dispatched over mid-on with a hybrid drive-pull stroke, and when Siddle shortened in length the next ball, Umar swatted him more conventionally to the long-on boundary. With his targets now set, he launched Siddle's ensuing offering over the long-on rope, and followed with a thick edge through a vacant third slip to the third man boundary.

Umar proved himself a batsman of rare class in New Zealand last month with a ton on debut followed by three half-centuries, and his first Test outing on Australian soil continued the theme. Fearless in mind and solid in technique, Umar raised his fifty in Johnson's next over but, with a touch of youthful impetuosity, was dismissed next ball attempting to blaze an angling delivery through the covers. The capitulation had begun.

Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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