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Pakistan's Imam, Shafique stay solid to set up thrilling final day

24 Mar, 2022
Pakistan's Imam-ul-Haq (left) plays a shot during the fourth day of the third Test. AFP photo
Pakistan's Imam-ul-Haq (left) plays a shot during the fourth day of the third Test. AFP photo

By Sudipto Ganguly

Pakistan openers Imam-ul-Haq and Abdullah Shafique made a solid start on Thursday to set up a thrilling final day in the deciding third test in Lahore, keeping the hosts in the hunt for a series-clinching win against Australia.

Australia captain Pat Cummins made a sporting declaration in the final session of the fourth day at the Gaddafi Stadium, calling his side's second innings closed on 227-3 and setting Pakistan a target of 351 to chase.

On a wicket offering turn for the spinners and some deliveries keeping low after pitching, Imam and Shafique denied Australia any success to take Pakistan to 73 without loss at stumps with the hosts needing 278 more for victory.

Imam was unbeaten on 42 with Shafique 27 not out.

Steve Smith, who has had a tough time in the series with his catching, dropped an edge from Shafique off part-time leg-spinner Marnus Labuschagne in the final over of the day's play.

The first two tests -- the first between the sides in Pakistan since 1998 -- were drawn.

Khawaja hundred

Australia opener Usman Khawaja earlier continued his run-scoring spree against Pakistan, remaining unbeaten on 104 after completing his second hundred of the series.

The 35-year-old left-hander scampered for two runs in the final over before tea to complete his 12th hundred in tests.

Pakistan-born Khawaja, who top-scored for Australia in the first innings with 91, also scored 97 in the opening test at Rawalpindi and 160 and 44 not out in the second at Karachi.

He added 96 for the opening stand with David Warner, who hit six fours and a six in his knock before being dismissed shortly before lunch for 51, cleaned up by fast bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi.

Khawaja, who returned to the test side after two years in January during the home Ashes series against England, was bowled on 31 by pacer Naseem Shah but was reprieved when the television umpire ruled the bowler had overstepped the crease.

He also added 65 for the second wicket with number three Marnus Labuschagne, who made 36. Former captain Steve Smith was out for 17 after becoming the fastest to reach 8,000 runs in tests during his knock.