Pak v Aus, 2nd MCC Spirit of Cricket Test, Headingley, 2nd day July 22, 2010

Ponting and Watson lead Australia fightback

Australia 88 and 136 for 2 (Ponting 61*, Clarke 32*) trail Pakistan 258 (Butt 45, Watson 6-33) by 34 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Pakistan could be forgiven if they slept a little uneasily tonight after Australia battled back at Headingley. It started with Shane Watson taking career-best figures for the second match running, as his 6 for 33 removed Pakistan for 258 to limit the lead to 170, then Ricky Ponting dug deep into his resolve to compile a battling half century during which he passed 12000 Test runs.

Ponting and Michael Clarke settled Australia after both openers departed for 55, carrying the total to 136 for 2 when bad light brought an early close with 26 overs remaining in the day. Even though they remained 34 behind there was a growing feeling that the momentum was beginning to tilt Australia's way as Salman Butt seemed happy to set his field deep. Pakistan's players will have to be mentally strong to prevent their minds from wandering back to what happened at Sydney at the start of the year where they tossed away an invincible position, but Australia can use it as inspiration.

Particularly ominous for Pakistan on this occasion is that Ponting is starting to look as settled at the crease as at any time during this short series. Pakistan will rue that he survived a very close lbw shout first ball when he padded up to an inswinger from Mohammad Aamer. But from that moment he started growing in confidence and when he steered Aamer to third man to reach 40 he became the second batsman to cross 12,000 Test runs and a short while later notched fifty from 73 balls.

Clarke formed a solid ally and was quick to use his feet against Danish Kaneria, but was also fortunate to survive a torrid working-over from Mohammad Asif shortly before the light closed in. He was beaten on three occasions by perfect outswingers and the final one brought a huge appeal, but Rudi Koertzen correctly ruled bat had clipped pad, and he might also have been given out padding up to one that came back in.

Pakistan's last five wickets were blown away for 36 after lunch as Watson found himself on a hat-trick, but his success only went to confirm that conditions remained heavily in the bowlers' favour. It made the 170-run advantage substantial and Pakistan began with high hopes of making inroads. Aamer found immediate movement with the new ball and slanted one behind Simon Katich's pads to take out leg stump, but Asif couldn't quite conjure the same threat as the first innings during his first eight overs.

However, for the second time in the match, Butt pulled off an inspired change when he threw to ball to Umar Amin and the part-time medium-pacer forced Watson to play into his stumps. Still, it was slightly odd when Butt persisted with Amin after tea and that allowed Ponting and Clarke to ease into their task during the evening session as the pace of the game plateaued after a manic five sessions.

Watson's full swing, delivered at a fairly gentle pace, was too much for a string of batsmen as he produced a performance that had been out of reach for the frontline pacemen and edhis figures from Lord's. Kamran Akmal, who was dropped on 10 by Mike Hussey in the gully, edged low to first slip where Marcus North took the catch inches off the turf then Aamer was given a taste of his own medicine when he padded up to an inswinger. It looked out on first impressions, but Hawkeye said it was missing off stump.

There was no stopping Watson as a full, straight delivery demolished Gul's stumps and Shoaib Malik, left stranded as wickets tumbled, top-edged a slog to Tim Paine before the innings ended with the slightly comical run out of Kaneria.

The day had begun in equally chaotic style with Umar caught off a no-ball from the fourth delivery when he had an almighty mow across the line and skied a catch to cover off Mitchell Johnson. It's hard to believe he had time to hear the call - which replays suggested was harsh - and it was clear Umar was in no mood for consolidation.

Predictably, he didn't survive long as Johnson located the right line outside off and found the edge, but Australia's early bowling was again varied. Ben Hilfenhaus strayed onto leg stump which allowed Amin to collect easy runs through the on side while Johnson struggled to maintain a consistent line.

Amin had battled hard to lay a foundation which made his dismissal more disappointing when he failed to pull his bat down as he ducked a Hilfenhaus short ball and a catch flew off the toe end to square leg. Maybe it was a sign that Australia's fortunes had turned in this match and they, more than most sides, know how to pull themselves back from the brink.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo