Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc have extracted life out of another flat pitch to demolish Pakistan and put Australia in a position to claim the deciding third Test.
Australia’s first tour of Pakistan 24 years has been tough going for the bowlers but Cummins (5-56) and Starc were finally rewarded for toiling away by routing the home team in a dramatic final session on day three.
With Pakistan seemingly crawling towards a third-straight draw at 3-248 on Wednesday, Australia’s quicks produced a masterclass of reverse swing.
Pakistan lost 7-20 in a sudden collapse to crumble to 268 all out and hand Australia a first-innings lead of 123.
Openers Usman Khawaja and David Warner were forced out for three overs before stumps but survived as Australia to be 0-11.
Australia took just four wickets in the opening Test at Rawalpindi and Pakistan batted for 172 overs to save the second match in Karachi.
But it was finally the bowlers’ turn to shine as Cummins finished with the seventh five-wicket haul of his career and Starc claimed figures of 4-33.
“I don’t think this wicket helps the fast bowlers at all,” Starc said.
“The wicket started out quite slow and dead and we’ve seen it shoot lower and lower as the days have gone on.
“The key is reverse swing and both teams have used that well.
“We’ve got to stay patient, it’s a hard slog, and things are going to happen quicker as the game goes on.”
Giving Australia hope of claiming the Benaud-Qadir Trophy will be Pakistan’s lower-order showed little resistance when the ball was swinging.
Pakistan’s top-four of Abdullah Shafique, Imam-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali and captain Babar Azam have been solid during the whole series but their last four batters did not contribute a run during the collapse.
All of Starc’s four wickets came by attacking the stumps – three bowled and one lbw – while two of Cummins’ wicket victims were clean-bowled.
Arguably, Cummins’ most important wicket came during the grind of the second session as he hung onto a difficult catch off his own bowling to dismiss the resilient Ali for 78.
But Starc knows Australia will have to fight as hard as ever to bowl Pakistan out twice.
“Last week (in Karachi) we thought the wicket may break up a lot more than it actually did,” he said.
“Credit to Pakistan, they played really well, but we’re in another position of opportunity…we’d rather be in those positions where we’ve got options and we’re pressing the issue than having to survive.
“It’s a huge positive for this group in foreign conditions to be pushing the game.”
Australia have recorded just three Test victories in Pakistan dating back to 1957, with two of those coming in 1959, and Starc knows the special place in cricket history that awaits if they can achieve a 1-0 series win.