Captain Steve Smith raised a composed century to push Australia to a 22-run first innings lead against Pakistan on Thursday’s fourth day shortly before a storm all but washed away the home side’s hopes of victory in the second test.
A downpour prompted an early tea two balls after Smith had completed his 17th test hundred and play was later abandoned as rain pelted down at a Melbourne Cricket Ground that had been bathed in sunshine for most of the day.
Australia had moved to 465 for six in reply to the tourists’ 443-9 declared, with Smith unbeaten on 100 and Mitchell Starc on seven not out at the other end.
Although Friday’s final day is expected to be clear, the weather has left Australia little time to build an imposing enough total to pressure Pakistan’s batsmen and force a result to wrap up the three-match series 2-0.
“Obviously the rain hasn’t helped us,” Smith told reporters. “So now it’s just about summing it up in the morning and seeing where we can go. It’s obviously going to be difficult to get a result.
“The wicket hasn’t broken up much and it’s playing pretty well.”
Australia lost two wickets in the morning and when they resumed after lunch on 395-4, Smith pulled a short ball from Sohail Khan for four on the first delivery of the session to notch his 1,000th run for the year.
Number six batsman Nic Maddinson fell for 22, bowled when he opted for an ill-advised jaunt down the pitch to take on leg-spinner Yasir Shah.
Rookie Maddinson was already under pressure after a run of failures in his first two tests and the unconvincing 55-ball innings may not be enough to keep him in the side for the third and final match in Sydney.
WADE FAILS AGAIN
With the game slipping away from Pakistan when Australia reached 447-5, home wicketkeeper Matthew Wade slogged Yasir into Azhar Ali’s helmet as he fielded at short leg and the opening batsman slumped to the ground in pain.
After being allowed a few minutes to recover, he gingerly walked off the ground assisted by medical staff.
After having concussion tests, he was expected to take the field on Friday, his team said.
Wade was also under pressure, bringing scores of four, seven and one not out since his recall in the dead rubber test against South Africa in Adelaide.
He did himself no favours, slashing at a wider Sohail delivery to be caught by Asad Shafiq in the slips for nine.
Smith remained resolute, however, and as dark clouds drifted ominously over the stadium, he cut Sohail for three runs past point to bring up his century from 168 balls.
Usman Khawaja earlier missed out on a sixth ton, adding only two runs to his overnight 95 before he was caught behind playing a loose drive off paceman Wahab Riaz.
Khawaja’s wicket was a reward for some rare sustained pressure by Pakistan’s pacemen but they promptly loosened their grip, allowing Smith and Peter Handscomb to race to a 92-run partnership on a hot and humid morning.
Handscomb marched to his half-century, his third score over 50 in his first three tests, but was out for 54 when he sliced Sohail straight to Sami Aslam at point.