Melbourne’s fickle weather holds the key to Australia’s hopes of winning the Boxing Day Test against Pakistan at the MCG.
Pakistan began day two at 4-142 and ended it impressively at 6-310 despite a handful of rain delays cramping both team’s rhythm at different stages of the day.
And it doesn’t look like the rain is going to stop. With a maximum of nine sessions left in the Test match, Pakistan is still in its first innings – with Australia yet to bat – going into day three.
Rain is forecast to hit Melbourne on each of the remaining day’s play.
Pakistan’s strong innings has anchored by opener Azhar Ali’s 12th Test century.
At the end of the rain-hit day, Azhar was 139 not out off 287 balls with Mohammad Amir unbeaten on 28.
After stumps was called early on day one, there were hopes for more play on Tuesday and Pakistan made hay while the sun was sort of shining.
Azhar reached 100 in the first session as he and Asad Shafiq (50) continued to rebuild the innings.
The pair made it to lunch, which was inexplicably called 10 minutes before it was scheduled, but Shafiq reached his half-century and then deflected a nick off Jackson Bird (3-91) shortly after the three-hour-plus rain delay.
Ahmed Sarfraz fell to Josh Hazlewood (2-33) after a 20-ball stay and the Aussies threatened to go through the Pakistan order, but Azhar and Amir made it to stumps unscathed.
Azhar’s century only came after a particularly nervous time in the 90s.
First there was a short rain delay, then there was a puzzling decision while at the non-striker’s end when Asad Shafiq hit a straight drive.
The bowler, Bird, deflected the ball onto the stumps and the umpire called for a regulation video review, although it was obvious Azhar was in his crease.
To the shock of everyone, especially Azhar, the initial message that flashed up on the scoreboard was that he was out.
— cricket.com.au Video (@CricketVideo) December 27, 2016
“My reaction was ‘excuse me, how is that out?’,” said teammate Wahab Riaz. “I (later) asked Azhar as well and he said ‘what is this, what’s happening?’
“He said the umpire told him to stop and obviously the decision was changed.”
Azhar also had nervous moments on six and 112, when he went for quick singles and throws from Nathan Lyon narrowly missed the stumps.
Azhar was outstanding, with is 100 making him only the fifth Pakistan player to score more than 1000 runs in a calendar year.
He is also the first Pakistan batsman to score an MCG century since Mohammad Yousuf’s 111 in the 2004 Boxing Day Test.
”He was very committed, very determined … from the first day as well,” Riaz said. “He wanted to score a century and see his name on the board at the MCG.
“He wanted to achieve something and the way he’s played the last two days, the way the Australians are bowling, he took his time really well.
“Obviously we are very happy for him – and because of him as well, we have put some runs on the board.”
– with ABC and AAP