Lyon dismisses Azam; Australia within 4 wickets of win

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Nathan Lyon had century-maker Babar Azam caught behind to end Pakistan’s rearguard sixth-wicket partnership Sunday and get Australia within four wickets of a victory in the series-opening test.

At tea on day four, Pakistan was 268-6, still needing 72 runs to make Australia bat again. Australia was one wicket away from exposing the tail-enders and potentially hurrying the end of the game.

After sharing an innings-steadying 132-run stand with Azam, Mohammad Rizwan combined with Yasir Shah in a 42-run partnership to survive the afternoon session and was unbeaten on 77 at the interval.

The wicketkeeper-batsman raised his maiden test half-century by sweeping Lyon to the boundary and had faced 124 balls. Yasir was unbeaten on 17, with only three fast bowlers to come in for Pakistan.

Azam’s defiant century gave Pakistan’s batting lineup the resilience it lacked in the first innings on day 1, when he was dismissed for one and the visitors were bowled out for 240.

Australia replied with 580, setting up a 340-run first innings lead, and big centuries from Marnus Labuschagne and David Warner showed that disciplined batting would be rewarded with runs.

Azam resumed on 20 on Sunday and converted his undisputed talent from the limited-overs games, where he averages 50-plus, into the long format for his second test century.

Azam’s only previous century in 21 tests was against New Zealand, although he narrowly missed out in the win over Australia at Abu Dhabi in October last year when he was out for 99 in the second innings.

He raised his half century with a boundary behind point off Mitchell Starc and, after surviving a strong appeal for LBW to Hazlewood on 75, stroked a classic drive down to the long-off boundary off Pat Cummins to reach triple figures.

The 25-year-old righthander looked equally comfortable hitting boundaries off the front and back foot, and kept his composure when Pakistan needed a big innings from him.

He also survived a shout for LBW against Cummins on 100 before eventually being dismissed trying to glide offspinner Lyon to third man and feathering a catch to wicketkeeper Tim Paine.

His partnership with Rizwan was crucial after Pakistan lost two wickets in seven balls during the morning session.

Pakistan almost navigated the first hour after resuming at 64-3, with Shan Masood getting a half-chance when he drove Lyon to mid-off, where a diving Joe Burns almost took a spectacular catch. The 50 partnership came up later in the same over with a boundary from Azam, and Lyon was taken out of the attack.

As on days 1 and 3, it was pace on the bouncy Gabba wicket that produced a vital breakthrough for Australia, when Masood (42) hooked rashly at a short ball from Cummins and was caught behind.

That ended a 68-run stand for the fourth wicket, and Iftikhar Ahmad (0) was out to a regulation caught behind off Josh Hazlewood in the next over to reduce the visitors to 94-5.

Australia hasn’t lost a test match at the Gabba since 1988, while Pakistan hasn’t won a test match on Australian soil since 1995.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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