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The Bulletin by Alex Brown at the SCG
January 4, 2010
An attritional first two sessions gave way to an explosive finale as first Mohammad Yousuf and later Umar Akmal helped propel Pakistan to an imposing 204-run first innings lead. Their frenetic efforts capitalised on the 109-run opening stand of Imran Farhat and Salman Butt as Pakistan advanced to 9 for 331 at stumps, having displayed greater discipline and match-awareness than their Australian counterparts the previous day.
The tourists endured a testing opening to the second day in gloomy, seaming conditions, but brightened in line with the weather over the course of the afternoon. Yousuf provided an immediate lift to procedings by adding 27 runs in the space of 28 deliveries in the period leading to tea, while Akmal made his skipper look relatively pedestrian by striking five boundaries from his first seven deliveries faced en route to a 48-ball innings of 49.
That Yousuf and Akmal fell short of half-centuries was due partly to Pakistan's penchant for attacking strokeplay in the final session and partly to the persistence of the Australian bowlers. Having been provided little to work with by their batsmen, Australia's attack stuck to their task admirably and were rewarded with seven final-session wickets, many caught in the deep as Pakistan sought quick runs.
Pakistan could be accused of taking their foot from the throats of the Australians in the lead-up to stumps, having at one stage thrust to 205 for the loss of two wickets on a surface drying by the hour. That may be so, but the tourists nonetheless outplayed their rivals in four of the five sessions through Monday, and are ideally positioned to break their ten-game losing streak to the Australians at the very venue where they last tasted victory.
The hosts made amends for an indifferent morning in the field with a series of excellent catches, none better than Haddin's spectacular diving effort to remove the dangerous Yousuf. The veteran batsman had, to that point, threatened to take the game completely away from the Australians, and Haddin's interception restored a semblance of competitive edge to the match. That notion was reinforced when the television umpire, Rudi Koertzen, overturned Billy Doctrove's decision to rule Akmal not out to a full, straight Doug Bollinger delivery, denying the Pakistanis further use of their potent middle-order weapon.
Australia's uphill task
Pakistan's lower order failed to replicate the heroics of their more established batsmen, but still cobbled together enough cameos to take their lead beyond 200. Australia's batsmen will feel confident of a better showing amid drier pitch conditions when next they mark centre, however the hectares of ground they conceded on Sunday may yet prove irretrievable.
The hosts would do well to analyse the manner in which Farhat and Butt set about their respective innings on the second day. The Australian top-order, minus Watson, fell to forceful strokes on a seaming wicket in their ill-fated first innings; a direct contrast to the cautious and patient approach of the Pakistani openers. Content to accumulate rather than dominate, Farhat and Butt shelved their cross-bat strokes and successfully repelled threatening spells from Bollinger, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Johnson and Watson to post their third career century stand and first against Australia.
Farhat and Butt have emerged as a dependable solution to Pakistan's problematic opening slot. Their stand of 109, which took their first-wicket partnership average to a robust 47.43, built upon the foundation laid by Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Sami the preceding day to deliver the tourists to a position of dominance in the match. The union was not without its anxious moments, most notably when Farhat was dropped by Marcus North to a regulation slips chance off the bowling of Siddle on 11, but both stood firm on an improving pitch.
Farhat went on to raise his 13th half-century before skying an attempted sweep off the bowling of Nathan Hauritz shortly after the lunch break. Butt also fell in the second session, edging a full-length delivery from a deserving Johnson, however Faisal Iqbal and Yousuf ensured there were no further setbacks with an unbroken 46-run third-wicket partnership heading into tea. Iqbal was first to fall after the break to an athletic, back-pedalling catch from Watson at backward point off the bowling of Siddle. That prompted a mad flurry of runs and dismissals that saw Bollinger and Watson combine for five wickets and Pakistan attempt to blaze the second new ball to all corners of the SCG.
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