Relentless Cummins delivers series win for Australia

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Cummins opened up the game with his burst
Cummins opened up the game with his burst © Getty

There were moments sprinkled all over Day 4 when it looked like Pakistan were capable of taking the game by the scruff of its neck, but a relentless Pat Cummins put a swift end to that in the final session while becoming the first Test captain to pick 10 wickets in an MCG Test. Pakistan fell from 216 for 5 to 237 all out, suffering a 79-run defeat that gave Australia a 2-0 series win even before the teams head to Sydney for the third Test in the new year.

Cummins had laid down the marker towards the end of the second session when he ended Shan Masood's breezy essay that threatened to drag the game away from Australia. Masood and Babar Azam did exceedingly well to gnaw away at the target by taking on Nathan Lyon and not allowing Cummins to give his quicks longer breaks. The Aussie fast bowlers however hit back by being utterly relentless in the final session where Lyon became Pakistan's only escape route.

Pakistan were already jolted by the wicket of Masood but were further rattled when Babar Azam got a second unplayable nipbacker of the Test that came with his name on it. This time it was Josh Hazlewood who got one to duck back in and breach his bat-pad gap. At 143/4, Pakistan's chase was in danger of a quick derailment but Mohammad Rizwan took charge to defy the hosts. He started off by slog sweeping Lyon for a six to get his first runs of the innings and then welcomed Mitchell Starc into the attack with a cover drive for four.

At the other end however, Saud Shakeel was stuck in a shell and proceeded to try and get out of it by attempting an upper cut off a short ball from Starc. Even though the shot was on, he didn't connect well and ended up hitting the ball to Alex Carey behind the stumps. In this adversity came Pakistan's next dose of defiance as Rizwan and Agha Salman built a vital sixth-wicket stand. Australia's pace trio were on point as for seven overs after Shakeel's exit, the two Pakistan batters added just 24 runs.

The pair persisted and soon picked some runs against Hazlewood, while Salman scored two successive fours off Lyon. The pair brought up a crucial fifty-run stand as the target was now down to double figures. Just when it looked like Pakistan found a stable grip on the game, Cummins snatched it away. First, he bowled a length ball that Rizwan looked away from at the last minute and dropped his wrists. The ball didn't rise as much as Rizwan expected and instead took a deflection off his arm and went to the keeper. Australian players were sure of a nick and sent the decision upstairs. After several replays and with a few zoomed in angles, the third umpire declared that out on the basis of the ball going off the glove. Rizwan was unhappy but had to trudge off. Australia could smell blood from this point on as they picked the next four wickets for just 18 runs in the space of 41 balls.

Cummins, who'd got top-order batters to play at his unplayable lines and nick to the slip cordon all through the game, reserved some short-ball bowling for the lower-order. To Aamer Jamal it was a back of length delivery that the batter looked to tuck away and got a leading edge that the Aussie captain pouched. He then bowled a bouncer to Shaheen Afridi who fended at it awkwardly and was caught by Marnus Labuschagne at short leg. With this Cummins picked up his second 10-wicket haul in Tests.

From this point on, the Test was heading only in one direction as Cummins summoned his best bowler for a clean up job. Starc arrived and picked the last two wickets off the first two balls he bowled to complete the victory. Agha Salman, who scored a defiant half-century, looked to get the scorecard moving and went big only to top-edge a short ball. Mitchell Marsh covered a lot of ground running forward from fine leg and took an exceptional diving catch. Mir Hamza, who also got a mean bumper first up, just about got his bat behind the ball but it ballooned up and was well taken by David Warner who ran in from first slip and completed a diving catch.

Brief Scores: Australia 318 & 262 (Mitchell Marsh 96, Alex Carey 53, Steve Smith 50; Shaheen Afridi 4-76, Mir Hamza 4-32) beat Pakistan 264 & 237 (Shan Masood 60, Babar Azam 41; Pat Cummins 5-49, Mitchell Starc 4-55) by 79 runs




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