Wobbly Pakistan close in on historic win

LEEDS, England, (Reuters) – Opener Imran Farhat’s 67  in 95 balls put Pakistan on course for a comfortable win over Australia on the third day of the second test at Headingley yesterday.

Pakistan, chasing 180 for victory, reached 140 for three in 37 overs to edge nearer to their first test victory over the Australians in 15 years.

A Pakistan win would also deny Australia an eighth straight  test win.

Left-arm fast bowler Doug Bollinger claimed the late wickets  of Farhat, who was bowled, and Umar Amin for a duck. Both  wickets fell caught behind with the score on 137 to give  Australia a glimmer of hope.

Azhar Ali was 47 not out and Umar Akmal was on two as  Pakistan opted not to request an extra half-hour play and left  the field in bright sunshine.

“I was just playing positive cricket but we lost wickets so  it was a good decision by the management to come back tomorrow.  The light was not bad, we’ve played in worse,” said Farhat.

Australia, skittled for just 88 on the opening day, fared  better second time around.

Resuming at 136 for two yesterday, Steven Smith scored an  enterprising 77 off just 100 balls between lunch and tea, with  nine fours and two sixes, to boost Australia’s hopes after  Michael Clarke made 77 and captain Ricky Ponting 66.

“We have to believe in ourselves. If we come out and take a  few early wickets and put some pressure on them, you never  know,” Smith said.

Pakistan, who will hope to banish the painful memory of  Sydney in January when they were bowled out for 139 when chasing  176, began their run chase nervously.

Farhat was dropped by Shane Watson at first slip, spilling a  routine catch at chest height to his right that he palmed and  then grasped at as the ball escaped him.

Australia did break through soon after when Pakistan lost  their dependable skipper Salman Butt for 13, caught at second  slip off Ben Hilfenhaus.

Ponting was let down by his bowlers – Mitchell Johnson in  particular, whose spray-gun accuracy continued to disappoint.  Watson, who claimed a test best six for 33 in Pakistan’s first  innings, allowed 10 runs off his fourth over, including two  leg-glanced boundaries by Farhat to ill-directed balls outside  leg stump.

Even the Australian fielding was ragged at times as  Hilfenhaus’s fumble on the third man boundary cost two after an  Ali cut off leg-spinner Smith.

Farhat raised his half-century with a square cut off a short  and wide Johnson delivery for one of his nine boundaries.

The various momentum swings in the day were appreciated by a  crowd that had swelled from the first two days when empty seats  were widespread at the neutral venue.

The East Stand was two thirds full as fans basked in the sun  — a far cry from the overcast conditions of the first two days  when the ball dominated bat.

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