Australia v Pakistan: Boxing Day Test, day four – live | Australia cricket team

Australia v Pakistan: Boxing Day Test, day four – live | Australia cricket team

Key events

WICKET! Imam-ul-Haq lbw b Cummins 12 (Pakistan 49-2)

Got him at the second time of asking in the over! Full and angling in, Cummins bowls identikit deliveries to Imam. The first is given not out on the field by Umpire Michael Gough but two balls later the the Umpire gives a nod and raises the digit of doom. The DRS shows both deliveries were pretty much hitting the same spot on the top of leg stump. Imperious from Cummins – Pakistan lose their second and Babar Azam comes to the crease, an invisible shoulder yoke of hopes and fears balanced across his shoulders.

14th over: Pakistan 49-1 (Imam 12, Masood 22) AyeAye! Masood dons his tap shoes and comes twinkling down the track to slap Lyon over midwicket for four. Good intent from Pakistan.

13th over: Pakistan 43-1 (Imam 12, Masood 22) Close! Cummins gets some late movement and darts one past the edge of Imam. A sketchy single sees the opener get off strike the next ball – he hasn’t settled into any kid of groove in this innings thus far.

12th over: Pakistan 41-1 (Imam 11, Masood 22) The Pakistan physio scampers out to give Masood a spritz of magic spray on his left hand, he’s taken a couple of blows so far in this innings, my mind jumps to the innings Pujara played at the Gabba a couple of years ago. This MCG pitch is zippy, but nowhere near as spicy as that one was on day 5.

A single to each batter pocketed off an ever-probing Nathan Lyon.

11th over: Pakistan 39-1 (Imam 10, Masood 21) Cummins has the ball. He thunders in with the sun on his back and induces a smart leave from Imam. A single is then punched through the leg side to bring Masood on strike. He uses the pace of Pat and opens the face to steer two runs wide of point. The Pakistan skipper leaves the next ball wide of off stump well alone but gets in a bit of a tangle pulling a short ball behind square, the ball squirting away for a single.

10th over: Pakistan 35-1 (Imam 9, Masood 18) Pakistan have come out positively! Imam clips Lyon through midwicket for three runs. Masood then rocks back and crrrunches a cut shot in front of square for four. That’s good stuff from the visitors – they have to keep the run rate ticking and try and put some pressure back onto Australia’s bowlers.

Righto, the players are emerging after the lunch break. Shan Masood scratches his guard with purpose, Nathan Lyon prowls around at the top of his mark. Crucial afternoon session from the MCG incoming.

Read all about it:

Australia’s women have bounced back from Test defeat last week to pull off an incredible ODI run chase against India at the Wankhede stadium :

Time for me to pad quietly to the fridge yet again. 1.45am. Metabolism silently yearning for some respite.

Lunch – Pakistan 25-1 (require 292 more to win)

Cripes! All happening out there before lunch. Starc sends down a yorker that Imam goes to flick into the leg side – a leading edge sees the ball pop back to Starc in his follow through, the bowler hangs out a mitt but the ball hits his palm and slaps out again, falling to the turf by the bowler’s feet. Tricky but they often stick.

Eeeesht – Starc sprays one well wide of off stump and Imam leans back to try and smear it over the off side, connecting only with the Melbourne breeze. Not the shot of a man clinging on for lunch. Starc goes full again and this time Imam times it perfectly, the ball skimming to the boundary like a pebble on glass. A dot ends the over and the session. Another fascinating couple of hours in this Test – Pakistan need 292 runs and have 9 wickets remaining.

9th over: Pakistan 25-1 (Imam 6, Masood 12)

8th over: Pakistan 21-1 (Imam 1, Masood 12) Drama! Lyon pins Masood in front, the ball sliding past the batter’s forward prod and thudding into the knee roll. Lyon appeals confidently and with a giggle, the umpire raises the finger and gives the Pakistan captain OUT! Masood consults with Imam and sends it upstairs…. pitched in line, hit in line – MISSING! DRS shows the ball going just over the top of the bails and Masood survives!

7th over: Pakistan 20-1 (Imam 0, Masood 12) Well batted Shan Masood. After taking the hit in the last over he flicks a Starc yorker away with aplomb and follows that up with another boundary, guiding with velvet hands past point for four more. Nathan Lyon is coming on to bowl, we might get a couple of overs in before lunch. Can Pakistan survive to the interval without any further losses?

6th over: Pakistan 10-1 (Imam 0, Masood 2) Ouch! Hazlewood spears one in short this time and Masood misses the pull shot – the ball thwomping into his stomach. The tv coverage clocks the blow at 108kph at moment of impact. Masood takes a couple of moments to get his breath back. Let’s hope it’s just a bruise and not a broken rib or something similar. He survives the over. Just about.

5th over: Pakistan 9-1 (Imam 0, Masood 1) Pakistan skipper Shan Masood is in early at first drop and he has to contend with Mitchell Starc steaming in with his dander well and truly elevated. Starc gifts a bit of width and Masood carves with an angled bat to pick up a single. Pakistan need to make it through the next ten minutes to lunch without losing any more.

WICKET! Abdullah Shafique c Khawaja b Starc 4 (Pakistan 8-1)

The pressure does tell! Shafique is drawn into a wafty drive to a ball outside off that he could have left well alone. The edge flies at chest height to Khawaja in the slips and he makes no mistake with the catch. Poor Shafique will not look back on this match with fond memories, he could have done with a score to atone for his careless digits in the field.

Usman Khawaja takes a catch to dismiss Abdullah Shafique. Photograph: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

4th over: Pakistan 8-0 (Shafique 4, Imam 0) Imam hangs his bat outside of off stump limply – like a beleaguered angler – and somehow manages to not edge Josh Hazlewood. Another maiden reeled* off, that’s three in a row. Pressure building, is something gonna give before lunch?

*I know. You know.

3rd over: Pakistan 8-0 (Shafique 4, Imam 0) Starc keeps Shafique honest with a sharp over – bouncer, full ball, back of a length, length – all with the threat of late movement. Another maiden.

2nd over: Pakistan 8-0 (Shafique 4, Imam 0) Josh Hazlewood starts at the other end and muzzles the chase with a probing over – skimming one past Imam’s edge.

1st over: Pakistan 8-0 (Shafique 4, Imam 0) Starc shapes the first ball back in and is met with a full face of Shafique’s bat as the opener drives down the ground for a couple to kick off the run chase. A nice clip for two through leg brings Shafique another couple and a fruitful first over for Pakistan ends with four leg-byes as Starc spears in a full ball that clips the boot down the leg side and whistles away for four.

Pakistan fans – what were you worried about?

Here come the Pakistan openers – Abdullah Shafique (who owes his side a few …) and Imam-ul-Haq take guard. Mitch Starc has the new orb in his hand. Things crank up a notch … and that’s just here on my parents’ sofa as I crack open approx 330ml of continental lager and a bag of cashews at ONE AM. Woah now.

Pat Cummins speaks to his teammates in a huddle on the pitch
Pat Cummins speaks to his teammates in the innings break. Photograph: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images


Alex Carey’s Test batting average:

Before falling in Karachi hotel pool – 20.20
After falling in Karachi hotel pool – 42.94
After being accused of stealing a haircut – 15.57
After Richard Illingworth got stuck in lift – 53.00#AUSvPAK

— Nic Savage (@nic_savage1) December 29, 2023

Australia all out for 262 – Pakistan need 317 runs to win

Alex Carey is pinned lbw by Mir Hamza for a well made 53 and that is the end of the innings. A tricky session in store for Pakistan’s openers with lunch about twenty minutes away, they need to make it through unscathed and then set about hauling this target down bit by bit. It’ll need one of their batters to make a hundred against this gun Aussie bowling line up. An intriguing few hours await – Where’s your money?

Mir Hamza celebrates the wicket of Alex Carey.
Mir Hamza celebrates the wicket of Alex Carey. Photograph: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

83rd over: Australia 262-9 (Carey 53, Hazlewood 1) Josh Hazlewood plinks a drive to get off the mark. Carey swings his blade at a few but can’t connect. A scampered single off the final ball sees him keep strike for the next over though.

83rd over: Australia 260-9 (Carey 52, Hazlewood 0) That’s fifty for Alex Carey – a punch through the off side is played with swiss-clock timing and skims away across the manicured MCG turf to the boundary. A warm round of applause from the crowd and a bashful wave of the bat. The lead is up to 315, Pakistan need to finish this off 20 minutes ago.

82nd over: Australia 256-9 (Carey 48, Hazlewood 0) Shaheen goes for the searing yorker but Carey digs it out with precision and timing – the ball hurtling away through midwicket for four! A tuck off the pad sees Carey keep strike. Important runs for both the man and the team.

81st over: Australia 251-9 (Carey 43, Hazlewood 0) Alex Carey hasn’t made fifty in a Test match since Edgbaston and the first Ashes Test of the English Summer, he needs eight more to make what would potentially be a career influencing milestone. Make that seven more, Mir Hamza takes the new ball and Carey punches away into the off side for a single.

80th over: Australia 250-9 (Carey 42, Hazlewood 0) Shaheen returns and stitches a maiden together. The new ball is now available.

Travis Head turns 30 today
Leaves Marnus Labuschagne as the only non-30 year old in the Aussie side for this Test
Marnus, at 29y 190d, is the oldest youngest player for any AUS Text XI

@CricketAus #AUSvPAK

— Swamp (@sirswampthing) December 28, 2023

Thirty. Ah. (*Explicit and existential lyrics)

WICKET! Lyon b Aamer Jamal 11 (Australia 249-9)

Lyon plays a delicious late glide through point to pick up four runs. He follows that up with a swivel off the hip to send a short ball from Jamal whistling away to the square leg boundary. That is the 300 lead up for Australia. Stumps splattered! Jamal gets one to nip back at Lyon who looks to play a booming drive with his front foot in a different postal code to the where the ball pitches. The timbers are ripped from the turf and Australia are down to their last man – enter Josh Hazelwood.

79th over: Australia 249-9 (Carey 42, Hazlewood)

Nathan Lyon is bowled by Aamir Jamal.
Nathan Lyon is bowled by Aamir Jamal. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

78th over: Australia 239-8 (Carey 42, Lyon 1) Australia pocket a couple off Salman’s latest. Pakistan have a spring in their step as they look to polish off the innings. There’s some debate about whether Cummins did actually knick the wicket ball, it could have been a spike scrape or a creak of the handle but the fact the noise and snicko spike matched up exactly with when the ball was passing the bat meant the third umpire had to give it.

77th over: Australia 237-8 (Carey 41, Lyon 0) Nathan Lyon replaces Cummins and pats back three short of a length deliveries from Jamal. Australia have two wickets remaining and a lead of 291. Don’t go anywhere.

WICKET! Cummins c Mohammad Rizwan b Aamer Jamal (Australia 237-8)

A teensy tiny inside edge and umpire Gough raises his finger. Jamal celebrates, he is confident that Cummins got a tickle on it but the Australian captain sends it upstairs immediately … nothing on hot spot … no big deflection on the slow-mo… A LITTLE SPIKE shows up on the snicko and that is enough to validate umpire Gough’s decision on the field and see Cummins on his way.

Pat Cummins walks off with bat and gloves under his arm
Pat Cummins exits the field with a look of disbelief. Photograph: James Ross/AAP

76th over: Australia 235-7 (Carey 41, Cummins 14) Salman is worked for three singles as the 300 lead looms for the home side. Pakistan beginning to look a little flat as this partnership starts to become more established.

75th over: Australia 232-7 (Carey 40, Cummins 12) Buzzers! Aamer Jamal replaces Shaheen, Cummins eases into the off side for a single but the throw that comes in is loosey goosey, fizzes past the fielders near the wicket and away for four overthrows that Pakistan can ill afford. Carey makes it a very decent over for Australia, playing with soft hands and an angled bat to glide a length ball between slips and point for four. Ten off the over – the lead stands at 286.

74th over: Australia 222-7 (Carey 35, Cummins 7) We’ve got some spin, Salman replaces Hasan Ali. A tidy over to begin with, he gives Cummins a working over around the front pad and then draws a chunky edge from the Aussie skipper that runs away past backward point for a couple.

73rd over: Australia 220-7 (Carey 35, Cummins 5) Shot! Shaheen digs in another short ball and Alex Carey gets his limbo on, leaning underneath it and uppercutting away for four runs.

72nd over: Australia 216-7 (Carey 31, Cummins 5) Hasan Ali does look nice and loose, Carey works a full ball into the on side for a single and that’s the only run off the over as both sides size each other up, someone’s gotta blink soon.

71st over: Australia 215-7 (Carey 30, Cummins 5) Carey drops and runs for a single. Shaheen gives Cummins a friendly barrage of short stuff to keep it to just one from the over. Weirdly, this is exactly how I got loose for this OBO shift:

70th over: Australia 214-7 (Carey 29, Cummins 5) Cummins picks up two with a drive into the off side. He’ll know how important every run is in this situation and will want to hang around to support Carey. Another compact but checked drive into the covers brings another brace for Big Patty.

WICKET! Starc c Babar Azam b Shaheen Shah Afridi 9 (Australia 209-7)

69th over: Australia 210-7 (Carey 29, Cummins 1)

Gone! Flat footed drive by Starc off a length ball from Shaheen, the edge carries to Babar Azam who clings onto a sharp catch at first slip.

The lead is currently 265 runs for Australia. Captain Pat Cummins joins Carey in the middle and gets off the mark first ball with a tuck off his hip into the leg side. Game very much ON.

Shaheen Afridi celebrates taking the wicket of Mitchell Starc.
Shaheen Afridi celebrates taking the wicket of Mitchell Starc. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

68th over: Australia 208-6 (Carey 28, Starc 9) Hasan Ali continues with three slips in place. To my eye it looks like there are huge gaps between each of them. A ludicrously capacious corden?

Three single off the over as Australia nudge the target that bit more out of reach.

67th over: Australia 204-6 (Carey 26, Starc 8) Carey is watchful, Shaheen pegs him back, just a single from a late glide behind point.

66th over: Australia 204-6 (Carey 25, Starc 8) Starc gets a meaty edge off Hasan Ali that flies wide and safe of Salman in the cordon. A flicker of a finger on it but nothing more.

Do get in touch if you are tuning in, good cheer optional. Come one, come all.

65th over: Australia 198-6 (Carey 24, Starc 3) Shaheen keeps Starc honest with four dot balls, a mixture of full and short stuff. The lead nudges over 250 as Starc bunts a mistimed drive over the in-field to get off the mark with a couple. Starc is looking a bit twitchy against the well directed short ball, he might get a bit more of that rather than the fuller stuff he can throw the hands at.

64th over: Australia 195-6 (Carey 24, Starc 0) An important innings this for Alex Carey, the keeper- batter is one of the few cogs in the Aussie machine who has a question mark shaped cloud or two lingering over his place. A punchy 50 here that puts the game beyond Pakistan could go a long way to dissipating them.

That’ll help – Carey tucks Hasan Ali off his hip for the first four of the day and then follows up with a perfectly crisp drive through cover for four more!

63rd over: Australia 187-6 (Carey 16, Starc 0) Starc sees out three dots from Shaheen to start the day. Australia will be keen not to give Pakistan an early wicket, if they do then the visitors’ collective dander will be well up and they’ll fancy their chances of keeping their fourth innings target to less than 300.

Here come the players, Alex Carey is striding out to the crease with Mitch Starc in tow. Shaheen has three balls to finish in his over from last night. Sun beating down strongly on the MCG turf and crowd a sparse crowd filing in. Let’s play!

Starc and Carey walk out on to the field for the start of day four.
Starc and Carey walk out on to the field for the start of day four. Photograph: Morgan Hancock/CA/Cricket Australia/Getty Images

A Hollowing Out of The Spirit

That drop from Abdullah Shafique really was a seismic moment in the game. He’d already shelled a couple of chances prior to the Marsh drop too. There’s no worse feeling in cricket.

Time to update the below from Marco Jansen to Abdullah Shafique.

What Shafique would give to go back to that earlier hour, or even back to the distant land of 20 seconds ago, to get another chance, put it all right. But he can’t. He has to live with it. The drop. The shame and the embarrassment gurgling in the pit of his stomach, the white-hot surging guilt that he has let himself and more painfully his teammates down. Their initial gasps of shock and cursing betray them even if now they’ve settled into torturous leaden silence, broken only by the jeers of the crowd and eventually hollow, consolatory platitudes.

The disappointment clings to Shafique like a shroud. Some element of it will stay with him forever. Etched in his psyche, felt in his bones. The agony of a dropped catch can never fully be forgotten.

Cricket and failure are familiar bedfellows but there’s a particular kind of griping wretchedness that accompanies a spilled chance. It’s the worst feeling to endure on a cricket field. Forget embarrassingly expensive, wide, no-ball or boundary-blighted overs as a bowler. The ignominy of a golden duck or the heartbreak of a dismissal on 99 for a batter, a dropped catch is the worst. Don’t just take my word for it.

The cricket writer Jon Hotten is also a (very) keen amateur cricketer. Well, batter. In his latest book, Bat, Ball and Field – the Elements of
Cricket, Hotten holds court beautifully on all aspects of the game:

“The best place to put a duffer is mid-on,” was WG Grace’s take on “hiding” less able fielders. Hotten has spent thousands of overs in his playing career camped just there. “For most of the years I have played I have hated fielding, it was simply the trade off with the chance to bat” he confesses. “It was usually boring and tiring, but with an edge of terror too, a fear and loathing of a mistake and how it will make you feel.”

He describes dropping a catch as a “hollowing out of the spirit”. It’s a perfect, description. Beautiful and desolate.

Anyone that has ever played the game for any length of time will be familiar with the feeling. If you aren’t then you are either incredibly lucky, unfathomably good or still in denial, blaming the hedgerows, a passing bird, an ill-timed car horn, foggy contact lenses … anything.

Mitchell Marsh has been giving a few interviews.

On setting a total: “I think if we were all out now we would feel very much in the game … I don’t necessarily want to put a number on it for our bowlers, but we know that they can certainly hold the bat.

“A couple of good partnerships with some tired bowlers now, hopefully we can get up towards the 300 mark, but I guess anything from here we’ll take.”

On the MCG wicket:
“We’re now deep into the third innings yet bowlers are still massively in the game, and that bodes well for us if we can get a few more runs.”

“With our bowlers, hopefully there’s still enough seam movement – certainly with the new ball. It sort of died off a little bit around the 35-over mark … But there’s still enough and I guess that’s what you want, you want it to be entertaining.”

Mitch wants entertainment, laaaa la la la la la


James Wallace

James Wallace

Hello and welcome to the day four OBO of Australia v Pakistan from the MCG. Yesterday was a fantastically absorbing day of Test match cricket, Pakistan landing emphatic early blows with the new ball in Australia’s second innings to leave them 16-4 and on teetering tectonics.

Australia had a lead of just 70 runs at that stage and had eked their way to a lead of 100 runs when the biggest moment in the day, Test match and perhaps even the series happened: Abdullah Shaffique dropped a sitter in the slips off Mitchell Marsh (on 20 at the time). Marsh and Steve Smith went on to bat Australia back on to terra firma and beyond, Marsh eventually falling to a scintillating slip catch by Salman Agha six short of a deserved century.

We’ll get into that dropped catch in just a moment. As we had into day four though the facts stand as this: Australia lead by 241 runs and have four wickets left to get as many runs as possible. Pakistan will want to blow away Alex Carey and the tail and set about the job with bat in hand as soon as possible. They always say it, but a HUGE first hour coming right up.

Play starts (half an hour early) at 10am AEDT and 11pm here in Blighty. James Wallace here with you in the betwixtmas bosom of my childhood home in the Peak District. The tree is twinkling and the fire is crackling. Geoff Lemon will tag in for the second session live from the MCG. Let’s do this.

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