WILL EVANS charges down the wicket with cricket tips for the third Test decider between Pakistan and Australia in Lahore after a pair of draws.
16:00 (AEDT), Mon 21st Mar @ Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore
History: Played 68: Australia 33 V Pakistan 15 (20 Draws)
Last meeting: March 12-16, 2022: Draw at National Stadium
Final Thoughts: Pakistan and Australia both head into the third and final Test in Lahore at $3.00 to lift the Benaud-Qadir Trophy with a 1-0 series victory. But the draw remains the head-to-head favourite after stalemates in Rawalpindi and Karachi.
The second Test at least came close to producing a result after a painful bat-dominated series opener.
Seven centuries, seven fifties tells series story
A result never looked likely in the first Test but provided a handy boost to the averages of Pakistan trio Imam-ul-Haq (157 and 111*), Abdullah Shafique (44 and 136*) and Azhar Ali (185). Aussies Usman Khawaja (97), David Warner (68), Marnus Labuschagne (90), Steve Smith (78) and Cameron Green (48) also enjoyed plenty of time in the middle in a Test where just 14 wickets fell.
Australia looked on course for victory in the second clash after Khawaja (160), Smith (72) and Alex Carey (93) underpinned a first-innings total of 9/556 dec, before Mitchell Starc (3/29) and spin debutant Mitchell Swepson (2/32) helped skittle Pakistan for just 148.
Khawja (44*) and Labuschagne (44) pushed Australia’s lead to 505 before Pat Cummins declared their second innings at 2/97. But after a disastrous start, Pakistan survived – and went remarkably close to a record-shattering run chase – by finishing day five on 7/443, the sixth-highest fourth-innings total in Test history. Skipper Babar Azam (196), Shafique (96) and keeper Mohammad Rizwan (104*) led the resistance and counterattack. Nathan Lyon finished with 4/112 and Cummins took 2/75.
Australia have named an unchanged XI, with Josh Hazlewood again missing out to accommodate two spinners. Pakistan are also unlikely to tinker with their line-up. But uncapped leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood is putting pressure on Nauman Ali and Sajid Khan.
Lahore history points to another stalemate
It again looks to be a bat-friendly pitch for a Test to be played in hot and dry conditions. Australia proved in Pakistan’s first dig in the second Test that a bowling attack can get on top. Whether they can do it for long enough to claim 20 wickets on a flattening deck remains to be seen, however.
Australia won the first-ever Test played in Lahore in 1959. But the four matches played since between the countries at this venue finished in draws. Pakistan have lost just three of their last 35 Tests in the capital, winning 12 with a whopping 20 drawn. This is Lahore’s first Test since 2009.
Khawaja, enjoying a sensational renaissance since his mid-Ashes recall, is thriving in the conditions of his country of birth. Australia’s only century-maker in the series to date shapes as the best bet in the batting markets. A draw is the clear value option in the head-to-head result stakes.