**** Australia’s Steve Smith said Saturday that close catching is a “real challenge” on low-bounce pitches after he spilled a crucial catch in the second Test drawn with Pakistan in Karachi.
The 32-year-old is considered one of the safest pair of hands in the game with 137 catches in 84 Tests, and his drop off Abdullah Shafique’s bat on the fourth day of the Test became a major talking point.
Pakistani opener Shafique went on to score 96 to supplement skipper Babar Azam in a stand of 228 for the third wicket.
Azam racked up a match-saving 196 while Mohammad Rizwan hit 104 not out as Pakistan batted all but 26 minutes on the last two days to score 443-7 in 171.4 overs to ensure a draw.
Pakistan and Australia skippers Babar Azam (L) and Pat Cummins (R) are seen at the toss. — Picture vis PCB/Twitter
Australia's Steve Smith, left, bombs his fist with Usman Khawaja after hitting a boundary on the first day of the third test match between Pakistan and Australia at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. — AP
Pakistan's Shaheen Shah Afridi, centre, celebrates with teammates after the dismissal of Australia's Marnus Labuschagne on the first day of the third Test between Pakistan and Australia at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Monday. — AP
Opener Usman Khawaja and Steve Smith hit half centuries apiece on Monday to help Australia recover to 145-2 at tea on the opening day of the third and deciding Test against Pakistan in Lahore.
The in-form Khawaja was unbeaten on 69 and Smith 58 as they added 137 runs for the third wicket after Australia were jolted early by Shaheen Shah Afridi, who took two wickets off three deliveries.
Australia, that won the toss and batted on a brownish Gaddafi Stadium pitch, added 75 in the post-lunch session without losing a wicket.
Shaheen had Australia in trouble at 8-2 in the third over of the innings when he trapped David Warner leg before wicket for seven and then had Marnus Labuschagne edge behind to wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan for a duck two balls later.
But Pakistan-born Khawaja batted in the same vein, which earned him scores of 97, 160 and 44 not out so far in the series. He has so far hit eight boundaries and a six in his 16th Test half-century.
Smith pushed spinner Sajid Khan for two to reach his 36th Test half-century, having so far hit six boundaries. He is just eight short of completing 8,000 Test runs.
The three-match series is tied at 0-0 after the Tests in Rawalpindi and Karachi ended in draws.
Earlier, the 21-year-old Shaheen was fiery with the new ball, troubling the batsmen with skidding deliveries during an incisive five-over spell of two wickets for 17 runs.
Smith, who survived a confident leg-before appeal off Shaheen's first ball, also saw spinner Nauman Ali fail to hold a hard caught and bowled when he was on 19.
Australia are unchanged from the second Test while Pakistan brought in fast bowler Naseem Shah for all-rounder Faheem Ashraf.
The match marks the return of Test cricket to Lahore for the first time since the 2009 terror attack on the Sri Lanka team bus.
Those attacks forced Pakistan to play their home matches abroad, mostly in the United Arab Emirates.
Australia are touring Pakistan for the first time since 1998, having previously refused to play in the country because of security fears.
Babar Azam (captain), Abdullah Shafique, Imam-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam, Mohammad Rizwan, Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah
Pat Cummins (captain), David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Swepson
Umpires: Aleem Dar (PAK), Ahsan Raza (PAK) TV umpire: Asif Yaqoob (PAK) Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (SRI)
Australians came after 24 years. None of them have even played in Pakistan except Usman Khwaja. Yet, we offered a flat and dead wicket in first Test. It should have been a turning wicket or something to our team's advantage. But we played safe. Defensive batting, defensive captaincy. We had set the tone in the first Test. Now we are chasing to save series.