MELBOURNE, Dec 28 (Reuters) - Opener Azhar Ali moved to the verge of a double-century and Sohail Khan slogged his maiden fifty as Pakistan raced to 433 for seven at lunch on day three of the rain-affected second test against Australia on Wednesday.
Azhar was unbeaten on 196, having struck the highest score by a Pakistan cricketer in Australia, with Sohail Khan 65 not out and relishing his swashbuckling knock on a cloudy day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Pakistan resumed on 310 for six and Australia were able to capture just one wicket early in the session when tailender Mohammad Amir edged down the leg-side off paceman Mitchell Starc to be caught behind for 29.
Rain had delayed the start of play and forced a short hiatus after the drinks break but it did little to slow Pakistan’s momentum as Sohail hammered spinner Nathan Lyon for four sixes to surpass his previous highest score of 40.
Azhar, who resumed on 139, brought up his 150 with a deft cut for four past the slips cordon and soaked up the applause from a modest but appreciative crowd.
A less assured edge through the slips took him to 159 and past Majid Khan’s record for a Pakistan player in Australia, also set at the MCG in 1972.
Sohail, who replaced Rahat Ali in the side, flirted with danger when on two with a nick behind off Josh Hazlewood but Usman Khawaja, who missed a catching chance off Amir late on day two, failed to dive for the catch.
The tailender also raised eyebrows with a bizarre scoop shot off Lyon which slip fielder Steve Smith anticipated but ran too far to the leg-side to catch.
After blasting Lyon for three sixes, Sohail moved to 45 when David Warner, one of the game’s best fielders, failed to get under his miscued slog at cover.
Sohail rubbed salt into Australian wounds by smashing Lyon for a fourth six over the long-on fence and then finished off the session by despatching Starc for consecutive fours.
A string of rain breaks blighted the opening two days, reducing Pakistan’s chances of forcing a result to keep alive their hopes of winning the series after losing the opener in Brisbane by 39 runs.
Sohail’s brilliant half-hour assault, however, ensured Pakistan remained well in front of the game while bruising the egos of Australia’s usually formidable attack. (Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)