Australia won the toss and elected to bat first in Lahore, a decision that quickly backfired with two superstars back in the sheds.
The third Test between Australia and Pakistan in Lahore will be the first at the venue in 13 years.
Gaddafi Stadium hosted the 2009 Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka before a terrorist attack that saw six Sri Lankan players wounded, and six Pakistani policemen and two civilians killed.
Watch Australia’s Tour of Pakistan on Kayo. Every Test, ODI and T20 Live & On-Demand. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >
Test cricket has not returned to the city since and Australia will be the first international outfit to return to Lahore.
Australia has not won a Test match at Gaddafi Stadium since 1959, failing to secure victory from its four most recent attempts in Lahore.
Warner, Labuschagne depart early
Disaster for Australia, with opener David Warner and No. 3 batter Marnus Labuschagne removed cheaply in Lahore.
Pakistan paceman Shaheen Afridi got the Kookaburra to nip past Warner’s inside edge in the third over, trapping the left-hander on the pad for 7.
Warner didn’t bother calling for the review, making his way back to the pavilion for 7 — that was plumb sauce.
Labuschagne, the world’s No. 1 Test batter, joined Usman Khawaja in the middle earlier than he would have hoped, and returned to the sheds not long after.
Facing his second delivery, Labuschagne lazily pushed at a wide delivery from Afridi, with the outside edge carrying to Pakistan gloveman Mohammad Rizwan behind the stumps.
It was a terrible shot from the Queenslander, who falls for his second duck of the series.
Suddenly the Aussies were 2/8 in Lahore, with Steve Smith the new man in the middle.
Aussies win crucial toss
Australia captain Pat Cummins has won the toss and elected to bat first in Lahore.
Considering how the first two Tests transpired, this is a massive win for the visitors — Australia’s bowlers will (hopefully) get another day to recover after last week’s gruelling 172-over marathon in Karachi.
The first ball is scheduled for 4pm AEDT.
Pakistan XI: Imam-Ul-Haq, Abdullah Shafique, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam (c), Fawad Alam, Mohammad Rizwan (wk/c), Hasan Ali, Nauman Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Sajid Khan, Naseem Shah
Australia XI: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins (c), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Swepson
Cricket becoming its own worst enemy
Cricket’s return to Lahore may make more history in an already historic series, but don’t expect the on-field exploits to reach any lofty levels.
While Pakistan admitted to doctoring the first Test pitch in order to play to Pakistan’s strengths in a match which saw just 14 wickets fall, the batter-friendly conditions continued in Karachi as Australia declared both innings, while Pakistan nearly chased down 506 on the fifth day of the Test.
The second Test had its moments, but it was once again a batters paradise.
More of the same is expected in Lahore, which points to yet another draw. Historically, that’s a safe bet.
Geo News Urdu’s Arfa Feroz Zake tweeted: “Gaddafi Stadium Lahore is famous for being a paradise for batters in domestic cricket. GSL is an ideal venue for T20 cricket due to it’s flatness and good bounce. GSL is less friendlier towards bowlers. Hence there are possibilities for Lahore Test to end up as draw too.”
Cricket statistician Mazher Arshad also wrote: “Hoping for an exciting pitch this time in Lahore. It used to be a very challenging venue for bowlers in 2000s. Apart from one game vs India in 2004, can’t think of any surface that had life for bowlers. Pakistan won a few Tests due to freakish fast bowling of Shoaib Akhtar.
“Tbh, Lahore was the most boring venue for Tests when cricket was regular in Pakistan. Apart from one pitch vs India in 2004, can’t think of a wicket that was lively for bowlers in late 90s and 2000s. Pakistan won couple of Tests due to mad speed of Shoaib Akhtar.”
Former Pakistan opener Yasir Hameed called for Pakistan to “go for kill make seaming track” in Lahore, but Australia has stuck with the same side as the second Test team, leaving Josh Hazlewood in the sheds.
It’s sparked the debate over whether five day draws where there is no hope of a result is good for the sport.
Comedian and cricket statistician Andy Zaltzman tweeted that there have been six draws in four Tests this month, three featuring more than 400 overs of cricket, adding: “There had only been three draws with over 400 overs played in the previous 130 Tests worldwide, since Oct 2018 …”
“Batters who have faced 560+ balls in a Test in the last 8 years: Imam-ul-Haq, P v A, earlier this month, Kraigg Brathwaite, WI v E, this week.
“It’s been a good March for fans of pointlessly tedious Test pitches.”
Zake added that he hopes the final match of the series has a result or there’ll be plenty of questions raised.
“The historic Australia tour to Pakistan does not deserve to end up as draw,” he wrote. “The pitch for Lahore Test has to behave differently in comparison to Karachi/Rawalpindi. A three match test series ending up as 0-0 draw will create a lot of questions on policy of PCB for pitches.”