SYDNEY,(Reuters) – Pakistan’s Younus Khan notched his 34th test century but Australia had reduced the tourists to 271 for eight, still 68 runs short of avoiding the follow-on, at close of play on the rain-disrupted third day of the third test on Thursday.
The 39-year-old reached the milestone for the first time in Australia in the hour after tea to complete his career set of centuries in each of the test-playing nation.
He was unbeaten on 136 at stumps alongside tailender Yasir Shah (five not out) but Australia will be confident of securing a 3-0 series sweep with a lead of 267 on the back of their first innings 538-8 declared.
“Hopefully, (the wicket) will start playing some tricks,” Australia bowling coach David Saker told reporters.
“I would assume that we will go out and have another bat and put some more wear in the wicket and have a bowl in the last day and a bit.”
Persistent rain sweeping in from the Pacific Ocean had prevented Pakistan from resuming on 126-2 until four hours after the scheduled start at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Younus had forged a 120-run third-wicket stand with Azhar Ali to stall Australia on Wednesday and the home side were desperate to make a breakthrough once play eventually got underway.
The pace attack failed to do the job and ultimately it was a breakdown in communication between the batsmen that ended the key partnership on 146 runs.
Nathan Lyon had just come on to huge applause from a crowd largely bedecked in pink for Glenn McGrath’s breast cancer charity and Younus slapped the spinner’s second delivery past a close fielder and called for a run.
Azhar hesitated and was left stranded as Mitchell Starc swooped and hurled the ball to Peter Handscomb, who was standing in behind the stumps for the sick Matt Wade.
The 31-year-old Azhar was clearly disappointed to depart for 71 but can take pride from the fact he had surpassed Mohsin Khan’s 33-year-old record for a Pakistan batsman in a test series in Australia.
Azhar’s 395 runs in five innings over three tests, which one more to come, bettered the 390 Mohsin managed in five matches in 1983-84. Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq departed shortly after tea, holing out in the deep for 18, and Asad Shafiq followed for four when Steve Smith, at slip, brilliantly caught a Steve O’Keefe ball that went off bat, pad and wicketkeeper’s thigh.
Younus had hammered a huge six over long-on to move to 98 and completed his century by sweeping the ball to deep square leg for his 12th four. “It’s probably his last tour to Australia so it’s a really happy, happy moment for each and everyone of us,” Azhar said. “He’s been part of the team for so long and he’s so done so well for so many years for Pakistan. He’s mentally very tough and keeps working hard on his game.”
Younus’s partnership with Sarfraz Ahmed (18) lasted only until the new ball was taken when the wicketkeeper almost immediately got a thick edge on a Starc delivery which flew to Jackson Bird at gully.
As the evening shadows crept across the field, Lyon removed Mohammad Amir for four and Wahab Riaz for eight to finish with figures of 3-98.
Bird took two catches while on as a substitute fielder for Wade, who retired to the team hotel after two overs suffering from diarrhea. His team mate Matt Renshaw also left the field complaining of a headache and will be assessed overnight after taking a second ball to the helmet in three days while fielding at short leg.