A splendid 99 from Babar Azam and a controlled 81 from Sarfraz Ahmed helped Pakistan tighten their hold over Australia on Day 3 of the second and final Test in Abu Dhabi.
Pakistan batted through the best part of the day to amass 400/9 in their second innings before declaring. That set Australia a target of 538, and they began their pursuit with Shaun Marsh opening with Aaron Finch in place of Usman Khawaja, who was off the field because of a knee injury sustained during warm-up before the day's play.
The change didn't really work for the visitors, with Marsh bowled by Mir Hamza in the second over.
Travis Head replaced Marsh in the middle and the two ensured that there was no further damage, taking the total to 47/1, 491 behind. Finch was on 24*, while Head was on 17*.
Pakistan started the day with Azhar Ali and Haris Sohail at the crease, armed with a 281-run lead. Nathan Lyon, who troubled Sohail with his flight, turn and spin in the morning, finally dismissed the batsman by getting him stumped in the 50th over.
Ali departed less than three overs after that, falling to one of the most bizarre run outs ever seen. The right-hander edged one from Peter Siddle down to thirdman. The batsmen – Ali and Asad Shafiq – seemed to think that the ball had hit the advertising board, and got together mid-pitch for a conference.
But Mitchell Starc retrieved the ball as it stopped inches before the line and threw it to wicket-keeper Tim Paine, who clipped the bails off to claim an extraordinary dismissal.
Ali had to return to the pavilion after adding 64 runs to Pakistan's total. Australia had a foot in the door at this point and with a couple of quick wickets, could have put the pressure back on the hosts. Asad Shafiq, however, put the run out behind him quickly to build a solid partnership with Azam, who replaced Ali at the crease.
The two added 75 runs for the fifth wicket before Shafiq fell to Marnus Labuschagne in the 75th over. Shafiq tried to cut a short, wide delivery from the spinner, only to strike it straight to substitute Ashton Agar at backward point. His was the only wicket that fell in the second session, as Azam and Sarfraz Ahmed steered Pakistan's lead to 487 before tea.
Azam cut, drove and flicked his way through. Ahmed played the perfect second fiddle, following up on his counter-attacking 94 in the first innings with a 123-ball 81 in the third. The Pakistan skipper frustrated the Australian bowling attack with his measured presence and helped amplify his team's supremacy in the game.
Azam was well on course to bring up his maiden Test century in his 15th Test match, but was trapped lbw by Mitchell Marsh at 99. He reviewed the on-field umpire's decision, but the big screen flashed three reds back at him.
Bilal Asif, who came in after Azam's dismissal, couldn't hang around for too long and was dismissed by Nathan Lyon off the first delivery of his late spell. Yasir Shah fell five balls later, as the Australian spinner trapped him in front of the wicket to claim Australia's eighth wicket of the innings. Ahmed tried to accelerate the scoring thereafter but was dismissed leg-before to a full delivery from Labuschagne.
Pakistan batted for 10 more deliveries before declaring, giving themselves a chance to have a crack at Australia's top order for 12 overs.