Close Australia 330 for 5 (Ponting 141, Langer 72, M Waugh 55)
Australia were in the ascendant for much of the first day of the series, as a blistering 141 from Ricky Ponting and half-centuries from Justin Langer and Mark Waugh put a depleted Pakistan firmly on the back foot. But Australia lost three key wickets in the last session, and the match had developed the hint of a contest when bad light stopped play with 13 overs remaining.
The toss proved irrelevant. Steve Waugh opted to bat first and Waqar Younis indicated that he would have bowled first; the first over of the day seemed to bear out Waqar's instincts. On a wicket affording good pace and bounce, he lured Matthew Hayden into mistiming a pull that ended safely in the hands of Imran Nazir at cover (5 for 1).
But Pakistan - without Wasim Akram, Saeed Anwar, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Yousuf Youhana - then showed that as much as their batting inexperience would worry them, their bowling indiscipline is an equal threat to their chances. Waqar, Shoaib Akhtar, Abdul Razzaq and Mohammad Sami all had patches where they troubled the batsmen, but were inconsistent and paid for their profligacy.
The finest sports cars can race at high speeds while appearing merely to cruise. So it was for Australia, as Ponting and Langer took Australia to 138 for 1 at lunch off just 26 overs. At no point did they appear to be making an effort to accelerate or score at a fast pace. They were merely clinical, playing out the good deliveries and unerringly punishing the poor ones.
Ponting was especially severe on anything remotely loose and at one stage, when he hit four boundaries in the space of five minutes to bring up his fifty, it appeared that Pakistan were in for a nightmare of a day. Meanwhile Langer, a man known to bat in either first or fifth gear, was sailing along in third, but always looking likely to explode.
Saqlain tested Langer with some tight bowling, though once Ponting got his eye in against him he played beautifully, using his feet to play some delectable straight-drives and flicks through midwicket. The two had added 183 when, against the run of play, Langer edged an awayswinger from Razzaq to Rashid Latif, who took a low diving catch (188 for 2). Langer had made 72.
Mark Waugh started nervily as Shoaib was brought back into the attack, but got into his element soon enough, executing some typically graceful strokes square of the wicket on both sides. But it was Ponting who upped the tempo again, reaching his century by whipping Saqlain to the midwicket fence and then unleashing some belligerent strokes off both Shoaib and Saqlain.
But just when it seemed that he could conceivably pass his Test-best 197 before the day was done, Ponting got out on 141, edging Waqar to Younis Khan at slip, thus ending an innings that looked unstoppable (272 for 3).
Mark Waugh meanwhile moved on almost effortlessly to his fifty, playing with a languid grace that was all the more beautiful to watch because of the fragile nature of his Test career. This knock will buy him a few more chances though, and justifiably so, given the ease with which he played. He began tentatively but was delightful when he opened out, playing the pacemen with immaculate timing and placement, and taking a cue from Ponting in using his feet to Saqlain.
In this instance though, Saqlain had the last word, deceiving Waugh with his loop when Waugh stepped out to get to the pitch of the ball, only to hit it straight back to the bowler (302 for 4). Waugh made 55.
Steve Waugh and Damien Martyn then played with perhaps a touch more circumspection than was required, before Waugh (31) was beautifully deceived by Saqlain. He inside-edged a straighter one onto his pads, from where it flew to Younis at leg slip (329 for 5). The light was offered shortly afterwards, and gratefully accepted, but Pakistan, despite their late fightback, will still have a sleepless night ahead of them. Adam Gilchrist bats tomorrow.
Pakistan 1 Imran Nazir, 2 Taufeeq Umar, 3 Younis Khan, 4 Misbah-ul-Haq, 5 Faisal Iqbal, 6 Abdul Razzaq, 7 Rashid Latif (wk), 8 Saqlain Mushtaq, 9 Waqar Younis (capt), 10 Shoaib Akhtar, 11 Mohammad Sami
Australia 1 Justin Langer, 2 Matthew Hayden, 3 Ricky Ponting, 4 Mark Waugh, 5 Steve Waugh (capt), 6 Damien Martyn, 7 Adam Gilchrist (wk), 8 Shane Warne, 9 Brett Lee, 10 Jason Gillespie, 11 Glenn McGrath