Pakistan build steadily on Naseem Shah's reverse swing masterclass
Alex Carey and Cameron Green added 135 before Australia lost five wickets in a session
Pakistan 90 for 1 trail Australia 391 (Khawaja 91, Green 79, Carey 67, Smith 59, Naseem 4-58, Afridi 4-79) by 301 runs
Abdullah Shafique and Azhar Ali chipped away at Australia's first innings of 391 after quick Naseem Shah had earlier staged a spectacular fightback for Pakistan to leave the deciding third Test in the balance.
Pakistan reached stumps on day two at 90 for 1 with in-form Shafique 45 not out and Azhar unbeaten on 30 as the hosts trail by 301 runs. Naseem's brilliant 4 for 58 from 31 overs marked by reverse swing mastery helped restrict Australia and move this match forward with the series deadlocked after two draws in batting friendly conditions in Rawalpindi and Karachi.
Naseem's expertise with the old ball dashed Australia's hopes of a massive first innings total on a slow surface in the first Test played in Lahore since 2009. Australia, however, still managed a decent score on a pitch offering some welcome assistance for weary bowlers, with cracks evident, but Pakistan started their first innings reasonably comfortably during a prolonged final session lasting 39 overs.
After Naseem's exploits provided a spark, Pakistan's response started slowly and a stalemate ensued as Australia waited for signs of reverse swing. Their wish was granted in the 11th over bowled by Cameron Green prompting skipper Pat Cummins to bring himself back on and he struck immediately after removing Imam-ul-Haq lbw for 11. After twin centuries in Rawalpindi, left-hand opener Imam has thudded back to earth with three straight failures.
Cummins could have had a second wicket after in-form Shafique edged between wicketkeeper Alex Carey and Steven Smith at first slip, who were both stationary. It was a frustrating missed opportunity for Australia and continued the struggles behind the stumps for Carey and Smith this series.
Finally batting on his home ground in his 94th Test, Azhar started with a gorgeous drive to the boundary and then counterattacked spinner Nathan Lyon with a six over long-on. With stumps approaching, he shut up shop and defied a tantalising late burst from Cummins.
After his tough debut, where he finished with the figures of 2 for 188 from 62.4 overs, legspinner Mitchell Swepson came on in the 22nd over and almost had Azhar stumped then produced deliveries that skidded low but turn was minimal.
After Naseem's reverse swing prowess, there was expectation that Mitchell Starc could replicate something similar but he struggled to find the type of rhythm that crashed through Pakistan's first innings in the second Test.
After winning a crucial toss, Australia's first innings comprising 133.1 overs was a rollercoaster and dominated by two century partnerships. Usman Khawaja and Smith rescued them from 8 for 2 with a 138-partnership before Green and Carey produced a record 135-run partnership in the highest sixth-wicket stand for Australia in Pakistan.
Having started the second day in a delicate position at 232 for 5, Carey and Green batted fluently through the first session to frustrate Pakistan and restore Australia's control. But they both missed out on maiden Test centuries after falling early in the second session leaving Khawaja as Australia's only centurion of the three-match series.
Australia had appeared set for a commanding first innings total until they lost five wickets in the middle session, as they crumbled under a superb spell of reverse swing from Naseem who was rewarded for unwavering bowling through the innings.
In a riveting contest between two of cricket's brightest young talents, Naseem had the last laugh when he clean bowled Green with a gem of an inswinger to end the allrounder's 163-ball knock. Green fell just short of his highest Test score of 84 but it was another impressive innings from the 22-year-old who showcased a mixture of strong defence, marked by an intent on getting his huge frame forward, and exquisite strokes on the off side.
Carey, in his eighth Test, also produced an encouraging performance to help strengthen Australia's middle-order after notching his second straight half-century. Having entered the series under some pressure after an inconsistent Ashes with bat and gloves, Carey's 105-ball knock was marked by superb driving to thwart the quicks and perfectly executing reverse sweeps to fluster the spinners.
Pakistan's five-pronged attack toiled manfully amid oppressive conditions after appearing to be staring down the barrel of again conceding a massive first innings score. But they hung in and took full advantage of reverse swing after lunch through young guns Naseem and Shaheen Shah Afridi, who also claimed four wickets.
Naseem's scintillating burst late in the middle session was a rare sight of ball dominating bat in this series. In a more familiar sight, an arm wrestle ensued in the final session as little separated these teams after two days.
Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth