A ton of defiance from Pakistan’s captain Babar Azam has left the clock nervously ticking on Australia’s bid for a breakthrough Test victory in Karachi.
Set an improbable 506 runs to win, Babar’s stoic unbeaten 102 steered Pakistan to 2-192 at stumps on day four.
Australia needs eight last-day wickets from a minimum 90 overs to claim its first Test win in Karachi in nine attempts.
Pakistan needs 314 more runs for an improbable, record-breaking win.
Babar combined with opener Abdullah Shafique (71 not out from 226 balls) for an unbroken 171-run partnership after Pakistan plunged into early strife.
Australian off-spinner Nathan Lyon (1-50) and all-rounder Cameron Green (1-15) took early wickets to leave Pakistan wobbling at 2-21.
Lyon removed Imam-ul-Haq (one) before lunch when the Pakistani opener lunged forward defensively but missed the ball, which struck his front pad.
Imam was given out but opted to review and replays showed the ball would have hit his stumps.
After the break, Green dismissed Azhar Ali (six) in bizarre fashion.
The Pakistani opener ducked a short ball from Green which kept low and struck the batsman on the body as he ducked and was given out lbw.
But replays showed the ball brushed Azhar’s glove, though the right-hander didn’t seek a review of the lbw verdict.
Shafique and Babar negotiated their way to stumps, soaking up 82 overs – Pakistan’s entire first innings only lasted 53 overs. But its resistance wasn’t without incident.
Shafique was given a reprieve on 20 when Steve Smith turfed a regulation catching chance at first slip from Pat Cummins’ bowling.
And Shafique was also fortunate to survive a run out chance.
On 33, the opener played a Lyon delivery to the on side and a sliding Green launched a throw that narrowly missed the stumps with the Pakistani well short of the crease.
But Babar settled the hosts with a superb century, reaching his milestone from 180 balls when he top-edged a sweep over short fine-leg from leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson (0-57).
Earlier, the Australians declared its second innings at 2-97 some 25 minutes into day four, a lead of 505 runs.
The highest successful run chase in Test history is the West Indies’ 7-418 to beat Australia in Antigua in 2003.
The unlikely victory assignment comes after Australia amassed 9(dec)-556 in its first innings and then bowled out Pakistan for 148.
Australia’s captain Cummins chose not to enforce the follow-on and instead batted again.
Cummins halted his team’s second innings when Marnus Labuschagne fell for 44, leaving Usman Khawaja, following his 160 in the first dig, unbeaten on 44.
The Australians began their victory quest with a minimum of 172 overs to bowl out Pakistan and secure a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series after a drawn first Test in Rawalpindi.