David Warner continued to re-write the record books, clubbing the fastest Test half-century by an Australian as the hosts closed in on a series clean sweep against Pakistan at the SCG.
Warner blasted three sixes and seven fours in a 23-ball half-century, falling two balls shy of the record set by Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq in 2014.
Warner made 55, captain Steve Smith 59 as Australia declared its second innings closed at 2-241, a total achieved at a run rate of 7.53 – a record in a Test innings of 100-plus runs.
“To get those runs as quickly as possible and do some pretty unselfish batting, and bat for the team and get us into that position (was impressive),” paceman Josh Hazlewood said of Warner.
David Warner's fifty off 23 balls is the fastest by an Australian, 2nd fastest all-time in Test
— Fox Sports Lab (@FoxSportsLab) January 6, 2017
Usman Khawaja top scored with 79 not out off 98 deliveries. He opened the batting in the place of youngster Mark Renshaw, who sat out the day as a precaution after being struck twice in the helmet (once whilst batting, once while fielding at short leg).
— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) January 6, 2017
Smith’s rapid-fire knock in his 50th Test means he holds the highest Test batting average of any batsman to have played at least 90 innings.
“He was at the top of a pretty decent list. Just some of the names on that list were pretty special players,” Hazlewood said after play.
“For him to be at the top of that at the moment is unbelievable really. He gets runs pretty much every time he bats and you feel pretty confident as a bowler when he’s out there scoring runs and batting time.
“It’s an unbelievable achievement.”
The legendary Donald Bradman averaged 99.94 across 80 Test innings.
The highest batting averages for batsmen who have played at least 90 innings are: English duo Ken Barrington (58.67) and Wally Hammond (58.45), West Indian all-rounder Garry Sobers (57.78) and Sri Lankan great Kumar Sangakkara (57.40).
Australia’s batting fireworks, coming after a second consecutive day where the morning session was wiped out by rain, ensured the hosts set Pakistan an improbable target of 465 to win.
At stumps the Pakistanis were 1/55, with opener Sharjeel Khan dismissed by Nathan Lyon for 40. The unbeaten batsmen were in-form Azar Ali (11) and nightwatchman Yasir Shah (3).
Yasir had batted doggedly in Pakistan’s first innings of 315, lasting more than an hour with Younis Khan (175 not out) to ensure Smith had to call upon additional spells from his strike bowlers Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, greatly reducing the prospect of Pakistan following on.
Hazlewood was the pick of the Australian bowlers in the first innings, finishing with 4/55, his 27.3 overs including seven maidens.
The last of his four scalps was a sharp reverse swinger that bowled Imran Khan for a duck.
His bowling drew high praise from 39-year-old veteran Younis. “He doesn’t give you any easy runs. So I think he will be the next McGrath for the Australian team.”
Younis, Pakistan’s most prolific run-scorer, now needs just 36 runs to join the likes of batting greats Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Jacques Kallis and Alistair Cook with 10,000 career Test runs.
“I’m very near 10,000 runs. This would be a big achievement for me as a Pakistani because if you see that list, there is no Pakistani who achieved 10,000 runs,” Younis said.
“But it all depends on the team and the (Pakistan Cricket Board), how they want me. I will be keep in touch with them, as they tell me what they need from me.
“Then I will decide how long I will play. My body is responding well at the moment.
“When I retire, this is my vision – they all remember me as a fighter who played for his country.”
Pakistan will be hoping that Younis can show that fighting spirit and score a 35th Test century, so that the hosts might escape from the SCG with a draw.
A chase of the remaining 410 runs (from a minimum of 98 overs) on the final day is highly improbable given no touring team has won chasing more than 200 at SCG.
FASTEST TEST 50s
|21||Misbah-ul-Haq||Pakistan v Australia||Abu Dhabi||2014-15|
|23||David Warner||Australia v Pakistan||Sydney||2016-17|
|24||Jacques Kallis||Sth Africa v Zimbabwe||Cape Town||2004-05|
|25||Shane Shillingford||West Indies v NZ||Kingston||2014|
Previous fastest by Australian batsmen:
|29||Bruce Yardley||Australia v West Indies||Bridgetown||1977-78|
|32||Mitch Starc||Australia v South Africa||Perth||2012-13|