Hobart: Saqlain Mushtaq took six wickets, including three in one over, as Pakistan fought back from the brink of disaster on the second day of the second cricket test against Australia at Bellerive Oval today.
The Pakistani off-spinner mesmerised Australia's batsmen to finish with career-best figures of six for 46 as Australia lost their last nine wickets for just 55 runs to be all out for 246 in reply to Pakistan's first innings total of 222. Pakistan, who need to win the match to keep the three-test series alive after losing in Brisbane by 10 wickets, quickly erased the 24-run deficit to reach 61-1 by stumps for an overall lead of 37 with nine second innings wickets in hand.
Australia had appeared to be heading towards a massive first innings lead after cruising to 191-1 midway through the second session before Saqlain turned the game around with a brilliant spell of deceptive bowling. The 22-year-old made the vital breakthrough when he claimed the wicket of in-form opener Michael Slater for 97. He then set about carving his way through the rest of the Australian batsmen.
He dismissed Justin Langer for 59 with the total on 206 then cleaned up Adam Gilchrist (6) and Shane Warne (0) in successive deliveries. Saqlain came heartbreakingly close to a hat-trick when wicketkeeper Moin Khan almost stumped Damien Fleming first ball. Fleming was given the benefit of the doubt by the third umpire. But Saqlain got Fleming four balls later when he rapped him on the pads.
He then finished off the Australian innings when Glenn McGrath played forward and was caught short of his ground as Moin whipped off the bails. Pakistan could have been in an even better position but for their appalling display in the field. Slater was dropped four times and Australia picked up at least a dozen extra runs from sloppy misfields and overthrows.
Slater, who scored 169 in Brisbane after he was dropped on 99, seemed destined to make another hundred before his luck finally deserted him three runs short of the three-figure mark. He was dropped by Saeed Anwar on 36, Mohammad Wasim on 49, Ijaz Ahmed on 68 and then Wasim Akram on 97. He chanced his arm once too often, top-edging a leg side full toss from Saqlain straight to Ijaz at square leg.