Travis Head has ended Pakistan’s first innings in the first Test against Australia, leaving Nathan Lyon stranded on 499 Test wickets.
With the Perth Stadium crowd behind him, Lyon had looked all but certain to snare No.500 late in the second session on Saturday, Pakistan vulnerable at nine down and the off-spinner on fire.
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But it was Travis Head who gatecrashed the party by ending Pakistan’s innings with his first wicket of the day.
Channel 7 commentator Ricky Ponting called for Head to slow his bowling down and entice Pakistani tail-ender Shaheen Shah Afridi into a big shot.
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And as so often is the case, Ponting’s call eventuated in front of his eyes just moments later as Afridi attempted to slog sweep Head over mid-wicket, but miscued the shot and ballooned the ball straight to Usman Khawaja at mid-on, who took the easy catch.
“Australia’s golden boy has just turned into the villain here at Perth Stadium,” Ponting said of Head, who has become one of the world’s premier players in all forms of the game after a breakout year in 2023 that included player of the match honours in both the World Test Championship final and the World Cup final.
“He’s done nothing wrong with bat or ball over the last couple of years, Travis Head, except potentially rob Nathan Lyon of his 500th wicket here on Day 3 at Perth Stadium.
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Travis Head finished things off for Australia. Credit: Channel 7
“It was tossed up. It was that big shot that I was calling for. (The ball came) right off the toe of the bat.
“Khawaja at mid-on, takes a very simple catch. Pakistan dismissed for 271. Trailing by 216.”
The Aussie fans cheered his every move after Lyon took his 499th, which he claimed by the barest of margins thanks to some tidy work by Alex Carey behind the stumps.
Aamir Jamal played and missed after striding out to a full-pitched ball, leaving his back foot just millimeters in front of the crease.
He tried to get back in time but didn’t have any piece of his back foot behind the line when Carey whipped the bails off in a flash.
Understanding the situation, the Aussie fans immediately gravitated their attention and support towards Lyon, who received cheers for anything he did and any time he went near the ball.
Lyon had few chances to take the all-important number 500 before Head came on, and he very nearly did it, with a nervous Afridi looking uncomfortable at the crease facing the world-class spinner.
But wicket No.500 will have to wait for another day after Head came on and tempted Shaheen into the wild shot that was easily caught.
Nathan Lyon will have to wait until the second innings to get another chance to reach 500. Credit: Channel 7
Lyon claimed the scalps of Imam-ul-Haq and Jamal on Friday to move to 499 Test scalps, putting him on the verge of joining the late Shane Warne (708 wickets) and Glenn McGrath (563) as Australians to have cracked the magical 500 mark.
With the crowd urging him on, Lyon had a few nearly moments against Salman Agha (28no off 76 balls) and No.11 Afridi (four).
Lyon ended the innings with 3-66 from his 24 overs, while Pat Cummins (2-35) and Mitchell Starc (2-68) also took multiple wickets.
Australia, who posted 487 in their first innings, decided not to enforce the follow-on with two days and a session still remaining in the match.
The home side will be aiming to build on their 216-run win before sending Pakistan in to bat again.
“It’s a good day to sit in the air-con for us quicks,” Cummins said of his decision not to enforce the follow-on.
The tourists showed promise with the bat early on Friday, but they lost 3-14 during a calamitous period before lunch.
Hometown hero Mitch Marsh began the carnage, removing Babar Azam when the Pakistan star edged an outswinger to wicketkeeper Alex Carey.
Mitchell Marsh has done no wrong for Australia. Credit: RICHARD WAINWRIGHT/AAPIMAGE
It continued a strong match from Marsh, who smashed 90 in Australia’s first innings.
Babar, Pakistan’s former captain and the country’s premier batter, was looking dangerous at the crease with patient opener Imam-ul-Haq.
But Australia’s position of dominance was assured when Lyon also struck, dismissing Imam for his 498th Test wicket.
Imam had faced 199 balls for his 62, but lost concentration as he charged down the wicket and missed Lyon’s delivery, gifting Carey the easiest of stumpings.
Nathan Lyon was on fire on Day 3. Credit: RICHARD WAINWRIGHT/AAPIMAGE
After resuming on their overnight score of 2-132, Pakistan lost nightwatchman Khurram Shahzad (seven) on the third ball of the day, bowled by Cummins.
Marsh’s dismissal of Babar with his first over of the day sparked Pakistan’s meltdown before lunch.
Starc joined the wicket party, rattling wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed’s stumps for three.
Ahmed was considered fortunate by Pakistan cricket experts to be in the side ahead of fellow keeper Mohammad Rizwan.
Saud Shakeel entered the match with a Bradman-esque Test average of 87.5 from seven matches, and he was looking good as he moved to 28 after lunch.
But a Josh Hazlewood bouncer made him look silly, with Shakeel’s attempted fend ballooning to David Warner at slip.
Agha Salman was given out LBW on 10, but he was given a reprieve when his review showed the Cummins delivery was missing leg stump.
Cummins sent Faheem Ashraf (9) packing a short time later when Usman Khawaja took a ripper catch while diving forward at square leg, reducing Pakistan to 8-241.
Tune in to Channel 7 on Sunday as Nathan Lyon chases his historic 500th wicket.
– With AAP
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