Pakistani opener Azhar Ali is the star of the Boxing Day test match, guiding his side to an imposing 443 declared to put the pressure on Australia.
Azhar became the first Pakistani player to ever score a double century in Australia, and the first player to score 200 at the MCG since Ricky Ponting in 2003, as he posted an unbeaten 205. He anchored the side's innings, playing the steady hand as wickets fell around him and taking a step back as Sohail Khan blasted 65 in a fiery run-a-ball stand.
The visitors declared at 9/443 around 1.30pm, immediately after Aussie quick Josh Hazlewood claimed the scalp of Wahab Riaz with a simple catch off his own bowling. It capped an entertaining morning of cricket, as Pakistan added 133 to the overnight total. The match has been cruelled and cut short by Melbourne rain delays, with just two and a half days left in the match and Australia's batsmen only now coming to the crease for the first time.
In a frustrating morning in the field for Australia, Hazlewood was the pick of the bowlers with a tidy 3/50 at a measly 1.5 runs per over. Pakistan gave the hosts chances to claim wickets, with some flashing and risky strokes creating edges and genuine catch opportunities, but every one fell just short or wide of the waiting fieldsmen. Captain Steve Smith's foresight was maybe the best example, anticipating a cheeky ramped shot from the Pakistani batsman at one point and moving to catch, but watching as the ball skewed just beyond his outstretched fingers.
The athletics wasn't confined to the pitch though, with one over-eager fan trying his best Superman impression to dive for a catch in the stands.
But Azhar was the star of the day, leaving the field after the declaration to a standing ovation. Australia quickly returned to the crease, openers Dave Warner and Matt Renshaw desperate to get off to a good start, but the going was slow in the opening overs as they notched just 12 runs from the opening seven overs. With more than 400 left just to match Pakistan, and only two days left to salvage a result in the rain-affected match, it will be a test of strategy to avoid a dour draw in Melbourne.
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