RAWALPINDI (Pakistan): Pakistan’s first home Test against Australia in nearly a quarter of a century looked headed for a draw despite Nauman Ali grabbing four wickets Monday as the tourists reached 449-7 on the fourth day of a rain-hit match in Rawalpindi.
When umpires called off play with three overs still to be bowled, Mitchell Starc was on 12 and skipper Pat Cummins four — with Australia just 27 behind Pakistan’s first innings total of 476-4 declared.
Australia are on their first tour to Pakistan since 1998, having previously refused to visit over security fears.
But despite no rain forecast for Tuesday, the likelihood of a result in the opening Test of the three-match series looks bleak, barring a Pakistan batting collapse in the second innings on a wicket that still looks full of runs.
The pitch at Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium has produced 925 runs for just 13 wickets, and is unlikely to yield the spin needed for a result.
Still, Pakistan grabbed five wickets Monday, including that of top-ranked Test batsman Marnus Labuschagne (90) and veteran Steve Smith (78), with Nauman taking 4-107 in 37 precise overs.
Nauman broke a stubborn fifth-wicket stand of 81 between Smith and Cameron Green (48) by having the young allrounder caught off a miscued sweep at leg slip by Iftikhar Ahmed.
Australia were looking for quick runs to go ahead in the first innings, but they were further jolted as Nauman dismissed Smith off a miscued sweep that caught the gloves and landed in wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan’s safe hands.
Smith batted two minutes short of five hours, hitting eight boundaries.
Alex Carey made 19 before he was bowled by quickie Naseem Shah in the fading light.
Earlier, overnight rain had left the outfield at the stadium waterlogged and the umpires only allowed play to start after lunch.
Australia, 271-2 overnight, progressed to 288-2 when Pakistan took the second new ball after 80 overs — and were instantly rewarded.
Left-arm paceman Shaheen Shah Afridi forced an edge off Labuschagne which Abdullah Shafique took diving to his right in the slips.
Labuschagne lasted 190 minutes during which he hit 12 boundaries.
Travis Head, fresh from being man-of-the-series in Australia’s 4-0 Ashes win back home in January, hit two boundaries before he miscued a drive off spinner Nauman and was caught behind by Rizwan.
Shaheen (1-80), Naseem (1-89) and Sajid (1-122) were the other successful Pakistan bowlers.
The second Test of the series is in Karachi from March 12 to 16 and the third in Lahore from March 21 to 25.

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