Abdullah Shafique and Azhar Ali combined in an unbroken stand of 70 to launch Pakistan’s solid response to Australia’s first innings total of 391 on Tuesday in the deciding third and final Test in Lahore.
Opener Shafique was unbeaten on 45 with number three Azhar 30 not out as the hosts reached 90-1 at the close of the second day’s play, trailing Australia by 301.
The 22-year-old Shafique and the experienced Azhar, playing his 94th Test but the first in his home city of Lahore, came together after the early loss of opener Imamul Haq and showed a lot of patience to keep the probing Australian bowlers at bay.
The touring side posted a healthy total, helped by resolute half-centuries from Cameron Green and Alex Carey earlier on Tuesday.
All-rounder Green scored 79 and wicketkeeper Carey made 67 before Australia were all out at the stroke of the tea interval after opting to bat at the Gaddafi Stadium.
Fast bowlers Naseem Shah and Shaheen Shah Afridi finished with four wickets apiece for the hosts with a brilliant display of reverse-swing bowling in hot conditions on a pitch offering variable bounce.
“The wicket is really good for batting,” Afridi told reporters. “As a bowling unit, we tried to bowl in partnerships and good lengths. They had some good partnerships but we tried to stick to our plans.
“The batters have given us a good start. We will need to continue in the same way and hopefully, we will get a big score.”
The first two Tests of the series — the first between the sides in Pakistan since 1998 — were drawn.
Resuming on 232-5 against the second new ball which was taken overnight, Carey and Green batted through to lunch.
It was the second session in the match that Pakistan went wicketless after the hosts failed to claim one between lunch and tea on the opening day.
A few balls continued to stay low while the Pakistan fast bowlers extracted plenty of reverse swing but were unable to find a way through the dogged resistance of the Australian pair.
Pakistan came closest to picking up a wicket when Carey, on 27, survived despite a delivery from seamer Hasan Ali clipping his off-stump but failing to dislodge the bails.
Carey was given out caught behind by the umpire on that occasion but the left-hander overturned the decision, with replays confirming the ball had flicked the wicket on the way to the keeper.
Left-arm spinner Nauman Ali broke the stand when he dismissed Carey lbw with an arm-ball before teenager Naseem cleaned up Green with a fast reverse-swinging delivery for his third scalp of the innings.
It was the fourth 50 in Tests for the 22-year-old Green and he is getting desperate to bring up a maiden century.
“Unfortunately I keep having thoughts run through my head when I’m out in the middle,” Green said.
“It’s something that’s a bit of an issue now because they keep popping it. I’ve got to keep working on that, feeling comfortable when you get close to it. It (Test century) is something I’ve been working towards my whole life.”
After the 135-run stand between Green and Carey, Australia lost their last five wickets for 50 runs with the lower-middle order unable to stand up to the fiery fast bowling from Naseem and Afridi.