MELBOURNE: A run-a-ball hundred from David Warner gave Australia an outside chance of forcing a result after Azhar Ali posted a double-century for Pakistan in the second Test in Melbourne on Wednesday.
Warner smashed 144 off 143 balls in a pulsating 198-run stand with Usman Khawaja to cut Pakistan’s lead to just 165 runs with two days to play.
Azhar posted the highest score by a Pakistan batsman in Australia with an unbeaten 205 before a declaration at 443 for nine just after lunch on the third day.
By stumps, the home side had given themselves a chance of getting a lead to put the pressure back on the Pakistanis after rain disrupted the opening two days.
Usman Khawaja was gunning for a century on 95 with skipper Steve Smith not out 10 as Australia reached 278 for two in reply off just 58 overs.
Warner plundered his maiden century in a Boxing Day Test at the MCG and his 17th Test hundred overall.
The left-handed opener survived a big moment on 81 when he was bowled by Wahab Riaz with a searing 150 kph in-swinger after tea, but it was called a no-ball for over-stepping.
Riaz finally got Warner 63 runs later when Hot Spot and Real-Time Snickometer found a faint brush on his glove and he was given out on review to a legside catch behind.
Warner’s innings contained 17 fours and a six gave his team an outside chance of forcing a result.
He put on 198 runs with Khawaja off just 214 balls to move the game along briskly.
Azhar earlier overtook Majid Khan’s previous highest score of 158 posted in Melbourne 44 years ago and was just three runs short of West Indian Viv Richards’ ground best of 208 for a visiting batsman when his team’s declaration arrived.
Skipper Misbah-ul-Haq called a halt upon the dismissal of Riaz leaving Azhar unconquered off 364 balls in almost 10 hours at the crease spread over three days.
Azhar batted on after going to lunch on 196 but partner Sohail Khan was run out on his lunch score of 65 off 65 balls.
The pair plastered the Australian attack in a stand of 118 as the tourists set up a declaration which came after Riaz skied Hazlewood and was caught and bowled for one.
It was Azhar’s 12th Test century in his 56th Test and third against Australia, swelling his aggregate for the calendar year to 1,155 runs at 64.16.
In October, Azhar joined a select club of batsmen with an unbeaten 302 against the West Indies in Dubai and became the first batsman in day-night Test cricket to achieve a triple century.
It was also the fourth triple hundred by a Pakistani batsman.
Mohammad Amir was out in the first session, caught down leg-side by wicketkeeper Matthew Wade off Mitchell Starc for 29 off 27 balls.
Sohail Khan slammed four sixes off spinner Nathan Lyon to reach his best Test score, before he was run out when called through for a quick single by Azhar.
Hazlewood claimed his 100th Test wicket in 25 Tests at an average of 25.79 with the dismissal of Riaz.