PAK vs AUS 2022: Big call looms after Pat Cummins' series-swinging blitz

Pat Cummins bowled a stunning spell on Day 3 of the third Test to give his team a big lead (File photo)
Pat Cummins bowled a stunning spell on Day 3 of the third Test to give his team a big lead (File photo)

Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc combined for a potentially series-defining final hour on Day 3 of the third Test, taking 20/7 as a pair in a matter of minutes.

With yet another Test match in this series looking set to peter out into a miserable draw, Cummins' 5/56 displayed his incredible skill. It confirmed the Aussie skipper's place as one of the finest bowlers in the world.

It also demonstrated his lead-by-example attitude that could salvage the third Test for his team, as well as inspire his teammates. He and Starc have dramatically handed the ascendancy to Australia, who now lead by 134 runs with two days remaining in the Test.

After dismissing Imam-ul-Haq cheaply on Day 2, Cummins returned on Day 3 to take an outrageous caught-and-bowled wicket to dismiss Azhar Ali for 78. That kickstarted a special day for the 28-year-old.

In a tense final session, the Australian captain was determined to clean up the tail, removing Sajid Khan (bowled for six runs), Nauman Ali (trapped LBW for a duck), and Hasan Ali (caught by Steve Smith at first slip for a duck).

Pat Cummins now has the best figures by an Australian fast bowler in the sub-continent since Josh Hazlewood's 6/67 against India five years ago. He also became just the fifth Australian captain to take a five-wicket haul in an away Test, after Michael Clarke did the same in the West Indies in 2012.

Pakistan were bowled out for 268 at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore to had Australia a big first-innings lead.

Big call ahead for Pat Cummins

The final-hour seven-wicket implosion by the hosts has rendered the possibility of a result in this match more likely. However, important decisions and passages of play over the last two days will show the feasability of a result in Lahore.

Australia still need to take 10 more wickets in the match against a Pakistan side that has managed to withstand 116 and 171 overs in its past two innings. An Australian victory in the second Test was on the cards if it wasn't for an incredible rearguard 196 from Babar Azam in the fourth innings.

With Usman Khawaja and David Warner at the crease seeking to build on Australia's134-run lead, Cummins will be considering his declaration scenarios on Day 4. It is a proposition that he has faced three times already in his short Test captaincy career.

During the Ashes, his first declaration attempt called forth an Australian victory in Adelaide as Australia bowled England out on the last day. However, since then, declarations in the Sydney Test and the second Test in Karachi have seen England and Pakistan hang on for grinding draws respectively.

After Pat Cummins' brilliance with the ball, the next major turn in this match - if Pakistan are unable to bowl Australia out - is when the Australian declaration comes.

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Edited by Akshay Saraswat
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