Run-machine Usman Khawaja believes Australia remain in the best position to win the deciding third Test despite Pakistan eyeing off a record chase.
Pakistan require 278 on the fifth and final day in Lahore to claim the Benaud-Qadir Trophy after being set a target of 351.
Pat Cummins’ bold declaration early in the final session on Thursday at 3-227 left Australia with 120 overs to bowl Pakistan out and win the series 1-0.
The hosts survived for 172 overs to force a draw in the second Test, making 7-443 in the fourth-innings.
Openers Imam-ul-Haq (42 no) and Abdullah Shafique (27 no) will resume on Friday at 0-73 as Pakistan attempt to pull off their biggest run-chase on home soil.
If Pakistan are successful, it would comfortably top the 1994 team’s effort in scoring 314 against Mark Taylor’s Australia in Karachi.
But after spending plenty of time out in the middle of the Gaddafi Stadium, Khawaja thinks Australia’s bowlers still have the upper hand.
“It’s going to be very hard to bat on the last day,” Khawaja said.
“If we can get (the ball) reversing like we did in the first-innings, then we’re right in this contest.
“It’s really hard to score against the pace bowlers…so I’m not too worried about Pakistan chasing down the total.
“Anything’s possible, but if you bowl consistently well then it’s a very hard wicket to push the scoreboard moving forward.
“I feel like this is a tougher day-five wicket than at Karachi.
“If Pakistan can win this Test match then hats off to them, but this is what you want Test cricket to be with all opportunities remaining.”
Whatever the outcome in this Test, Khawaja, who was born in Pakistan, will surely be named player-of-the-series after hitting 496 runs at 165.33.
It has been an extraordinary resurgence for the 35-year-old, who’se become the most prolific batter in the world after only being recalled to the Australian team three months ago as cover for an isolating Travis Head.
Khawaja brought up his fourth century of 2022 – and 12th of his Test career – with his unbeaten 104 in Australia’s second innings.
The knocks adds to his 160 in the last Test in Karachi and his dual Ashes tons at the SCG in January.
Khawaja has now racked up 751 runs this year at an average of more than 125 in just five Tests.
For context, Khawaja’s predecessor as David Warner’s opening partner, Marcus Harris, made 607 runs at 25.29 during his 14 Tests for Australia between 2018 and 2022.
“We weren’t sure whether we would be able to come to Pakistan at some stage, but now we have and it’s been a really good series,” Khawaja said.
“It’s been fun, but you never expect these things.
“You just train hard and get the process well enough and hopefully you can achieve what I have in the last couple of weeks.”