Abdullah Shafique backs struggling Babar Azam in Melbourne Test

Abdullah remained positive and hoped that Babar will perform in upcoming days

Abdullah Shafique backs struggling Babar Azam in Melbourne Test PHOTO: AFP

Australia seized control of the second Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday, with Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon leading the charge against Pakistan. The visitors ended the day at 194-6, trailing by 124 runs, with Mohammad Rizwan and Aamer Jamal holding the fort.

At stumps, Cummins had dismantled the Pakistani top order, claiming the crucial wickets of Abdullah Shafique (62), Babar Azam (1), and Agha Salman (5). Lyon contributed by dismissing Imam-ul-Haq (10) and Shan Masood (54), while Josh Hazlewood accounted for Saud Shakeel (9).

In the post-match presser following, Pakistan opener Abdullah Shafique, who played a resilient knock of 62, expressed his optimism despite the team facing challenges against the formidable Australian side. 

Addressing the underperformance of star batsman Babar Azam, Abdullah remained positive and hoped that Babar will perform in upcoming days.

"Everyone is trying their best and putting in 100% effort. We are prepared on our end, but unfortunately, sometimes you don't deliver on the day. It happens. Test cricket is not that easy. Sometimes things go against you. For example, Babar Azam is our best batter, and the type of form we see him displaying in the nets indicates he is in a good rhythm. We expect to see him scoring runs. Of course, he didn't perform in this innings, but hopefully, he'll deliver and turn it around in the coming innings,” Abdullah asserted.

Reflecting on the crucial dropped catch of David Warner in Australia’s first innings, Abdullah acknowledged the impact of missed opportunities and emphasized the team's commitment to giving their best on the field.

"No fielder wants to drop a catch, but, of course, if I had taken the catch, we would have been in a better position. It is a part of the game,” Abdullah said.

Abdullah also praised the skills of Australia skipper Pat Cummins, stating, "I think the type of bowler Pat Cummins is, he extracts something out of the pitch every time he bowls." 

Discussing his dismissal, Abdullah added, "When I got dismissed, we thought that he was going to end his spell. However, the plan was to negotiate his spell so that we could stay in the game,”

Despite the setbacks, Abdullah highlighted the ongoing partnership in the middle and the team's determination to get as close to Australia's total.

“Unfortunately, we lost wickets, but there is still a partnership in the middle. We will try to get as close to Australia's total as possible,” Abdullah said.

Responding to questions about the pitch, Shafique dismissed the notion that it was getting flatter. 

"No, I don't think the pitch is getting flatter. When you get set in the middle, you have a good view of what the bowler is trying to do. That is when batting becomes a bit easier. However, when we got out and the new batters came to bat, it is harder to get set and going,” he further added.

On the bowling front, Abdullah praised the team's improved performance compared to the first test. 

"I think we did a good job as a bowling unit compared to the first test. We bowled well here. Our plan is to bowl in good areas. Batting becomes a struggle when the bowler is hitting a good length and line,” he concluded.

Pakistan had shown promise in the morning session, claiming seven wickets and restricting Australia to 318 after they had resumed on 187-3. Aamer Jamal played a key role with figures of 3-64.

Openers Imam-ul-Haq and Abdullah Shafique had made a positive start in response but Lyon, coming off his 500th wicket in the first Test, removed Haq, providing Australia with the breakthrough they needed.

Despite the setbacks, Pakistan accelerated after tea, with Shan Masood hitting Lyon for six, and Shafique reaching his fifty. However, Cummins' brilliance ended Abdullah's stay, and Lyon returned to dismiss danger man Babar Azam.

As the third day looms, the match hangs in the balance, with Australia aiming to extend their lead and Pakistan hoping to stage a comeback and level the series.