MELBOURNE -  Australian seamer Jackson Bird claimed two crucial wickets just before rain stopped play on the opening day of the second Test against Pakistan at the MCG on Monday.

When tea was called early due to rain, the visitors were 142 for four with opener Azhar Ali on 66 and first Test centurion Asad Shafiq on four, and that proved to be the stumps score as well. The rain continued after tea and play was abandoned without any more action. After winning the toss and choosing to bat the visitors made a cautious start but only Ali was able to build an innings of substance.

Bird (2-53) struck twice in quick succession just before the rain set in to give the home team the ascendancy, removing experienced duo Younis Khan (21) and Misbah-ul-Haq (11). Khan, who had been given out lbw on three but successfully appealed, looked to be finding his touch when Bird sneaked a ball between his bat and pad to bowl him.

Misbah got an inside edge onto his pad and short leg Nic Maddinson dived forward to take a fine catch which was confirmed by the third umpire. However, Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur was comfortable with the decision to bat first, saying the pitch would remain difficult to bat on. "I think the wicket was tough," Arthur said.

"It was really tough to bat on for a period, if you got the ball in the right area there was just enough there for the bowlers. We're comfortable that will continue, and when you win the toss and bat you always rationalise that decision against what could happen in the fourth innings. We think that in the fourth innings that it will be tough to score, history says it is... we've still got a hell of a lot of work to do in getting some runs and then bowling very well when we get first crack with the ball."

Pakistan's openers Sami Aslam and Ali played and missed on occasion but were able to negotiate the seamers, and it was not until the introduction of off-spinner Nathan Lyon that the home side tasted success. Aslam had batted with great caution for nine from 41 balls but was surprised by some extra bounce off the third ball from Lyon. It caught the glove and Australian captain Steven Smith took the catch at first slip.

Ali survived a confident lbw appeal from the bowing of Josh Hazlewood when he was on six and was comprehensively beaten by the next ball, but steadied to anchor the innings. But Hazlewood (1-15) struck with the last ball of the morning session, with Babar Azam (23) edging to Smith in the slips.

Smith, who made some rare catching errors in the first Test, went low to his right and just managed to cling onto the sharp chance to reward some excellent bowling from Hazlewood. Australia kept the same side which won the first Test of the three-match series in Brisbane by 39 runs, keeping faith in struggling rookie batsman Maddinson. Pakistan made one change, replacing seamer Rahat Ali with Sohail Khan.

 

Scoreboard

PAKISTAN 1ST INNINGS:

Sami Aslam c Smith b Lyon 9

Azhar Ali not out 66

Babar Azam c Smith b Hazlewood 23

Younus Khan b Bird 21

Misbah-ul-Haq c Maddinson b Bird 11

Asad Shafiq not out 4

EXTRAS: (b4, lb3, nb1) 8

TOTAL: (four wickets, 50.5 overs) 142

FOW: 1-18, 2-60, 3-111, 4-125.

BOWLING: Starc 11-2-25-0, Hazlewood 13-5-15-1, Bird 15.5-2-53-2, Lyon 11-1-42-1.

AUSTRALIA: D. Warner, M. Renshaw, U. Khawaja, S. Smith, P. Handscomb, N. Maddinson, M. Wade, M. Starc, J. Hazlewood, N. Lyon, J. Bird.

TOSS: Pakistan

UMPIRES: Ian Gould and Sundaram Ravi

TV UMPIRE: Richard Illingworth (ENG)

MATCH REFEREE: Ranjan Madugalle (SRL)