Pakistan reeling at 97-8 in reply to Australia's 429

BY AP • December 16, 2016

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) Peter Handscomb was in prime position to compare the wicketless first night with the run of wickets on the second night of the series-opening test against Pakistan. The difference was Australia's bowling with the pink ball under lights, he said.

A total of 15 wickets fell Friday on day two of the day-night test at the Gabba. After resuming at 288-3, Australia was all out for 429 halfway through the middle session. By stumps, Pakistan was reeling at 97-8 in reply and Mitch Starc and Josh Hazlewood had three wickets apiece.

Playing his second test, Handscomb went to the crease on day one and batted through the night session to be unbeaten on 64. He was troubled by the swinging ball, but held firm. He was rewarded with a maiden test century on day two, reaching triple figures with a driven six and a boundary before he was out for 105.

He shared a 172-run partnership with skipper Steve Smith, who finally ran out of luck on 130 when he was caught behind - he'd been dropped on 53 and 129, and avoided dismissal on 97 when he feathered a catch to the wicketkeeper but none of the Pakistan fielders appealed for his dismissal. That wicket triggered Australia's middle-order collapse, when six wickets fell for 57.

The slide was arrested, though, by last-wicket pair Nathan Lyon and Jackson Bird, who added 49 in a partnership that frustrated the bowling attack and ensured the Pakistan batsmen had less natural light to prepare for their first night session on a bouncy wicket and in humid conditions.

Then Australia's pacemen went to work. While Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz bowled well without luck on the first night, beating the edge on numerous occasions, they didn't get the breakthrough that would have put Pakistan in a better position.

The Australian pace trio made more of their opportunities.

''Obviously it is tough under lights, and we know the pink ball swings under lights,'' Handscomb said. ''Credit goes to our bowlers and the way we bowled in this session to actually get that little bit more out of the wicket and put us in a great position.''

Starc (3-45) dismissed opener Azhar Ali (5) in the fifth over, removing a dangerous rival who was unbeaten on 302 when he played his only previous day-night test - against the West Indies in October.

Sami Aslam (22) was hit in the helmet and the body by short balls but batted resiliently in partnership with Babar Azam (19) to get the total up to 43-1 before Hazlewood (3-19) struck twice on consecutive balls to spark a collapse in which seven Pakistan wickets fell for 24.

Sarfraz Ahmed (31) and Mohammad Amir (8) combined in an unbroken 30-run stand to ensure the visitors batted until stumps.

Hazlewood removed Azam with the third-last ball of the 20th over, caught by Smith at second slip, and had Younis Khan (0) caught behind with the next. Skipper Misbah-ul-Haq (4) survived the hat-trick ball but was out six overs later when he edged Bird to slip, removing the spine of the Pakistan batting lineup.

Starc returned to dismiss Asad Shafiq and Aslam's defiance ended in the next over when Bird (2-7) had him caught behind to make the total 56-6.

Hazlewood accounted for Wahab (1) and Starc took the last wicket of the day, having Yasir Shah caught by Usman Khawaja at third slip.

The Australian fielding was almost flawless, with Khawaja at third slip, Smith at second and Matt Renshaw at first holding some sharp catches, a contrast to the error-riddled fielding performance from Pakistan which put down at least three regulation chances.

The only blemish on the Australian fielding was a missed stumping chance by wicketkeeper Matthew Wade in the next-to-last over.

Wahab said the poor fielding - particularly the dropped catches - had been costly.

Amir and Wahab ended up taking four wickets each, and were on top of the Australian batsmen for periods, but tailenders returned the ascendancy to the hosts.

The Australians haven't lost a test at the Brisbane ground since 1988, while Pakistan has never won a test at the venue.

With a 332-run lead, there's the prospect the Australia could enforce the follow-on Saturday in pursuit of a quick victory.

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