BRISBANE, Australia: Pakistan opener Azhar Ali brushed off a hit on the helmet to score a half-century and received valuable support from veteran Younis Khan as Pakistan held firm during the opening session Sunday on the fourth day of the first cricket test against Australia.
With Pakistan on 131-2, tea was taken 20 minutes early when officials decided to cover the Gabba pitch because of a pending thunderstorm.
Azhar, who started the day on 41, moved to 61, while Younis was unbeaten on 40 after starting the day without having scored from 19 deliveries late Saturday. The visitors began the day on 70-2.
Pakistan, which scored just 142 runs in its first innings, started its second innings chasing an improbable 490 to win after Australia made 429 and 202-5 declared.
The two highest successful fourth-innings chases in test history have come against Australia — the West Indies scoring 418-7 at Antigua in 2002-03 and South Africa making 414-4 in Perth in 2008-09.
Azhar, who scored an unbeaten 302 in his first innings in a day-night test, against the West Indies in October, was hit on the helmet by a Josh Hazlewood delivery, but continued playing after a check from medical staff.
The opener tried to evade the ball by ducking and turning his head but was too late. The right-hander crouched down after the hit, with Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon both rushing in to check on his welfare. Azhar was soon back on his feet and sharing a joke with umpire Ian Gould and Younis.
Earlier, Australia batsman Shaun Marsh was ruled out of the Melbourne test as he recovers from a broken thumb. Marsh had hoped to prove his fitness for the second test beginning Dec. 26 by playing in Perth’s Big Bash League match on Friday.
But Cricket Australia high performance manager Pat Howard said Sunday that Marsh will be not be ready, a decision which looks set to provide a reprieve for struggling No. 6 batsman Nic Maddinson, who has scored a duck, one and four runs in three innings.