Time: 21 Mar, 10.30 AM IST
Venue: Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore
Lahore will be hosting a Test match for the first time since 2009. After what we witnessed in the previous two Tests at Rawalpindi and Karachi, it is tough to see the curator preparing a wicket that will suit the Australians.
Scorching conditions are forecast for the entire duration of the game. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the captain winning the toss deciding to bat first.
Probable XI for Pakistan: Abdullah Shafique, Imam-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam (c), Fawad Alam, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Nauman Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Sajid Khan
Probable XI for Australia: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steven Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins (c), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Swepson
We have opted for a fantasy cricket team based on the recent performances, overall impact, and credit points.
With 301 runs at an average of 150, Usman Khawaja is the leading run-getter in this series. Since his comeback early this year, his scores read 132, 101*, 6, 11, 97, 160, and 44*. If Pakistan don’t dismiss him cheaply, they could end up chasing leather for longer periods.
Just when Pakistan appeared to be under pressure, Babar Azam rose to the occasion in the second innings at Karachi by scoring a match-saving 196. He averages 41.68 against Australia.
After running himself out in the first innings for a duck, Marnus Labuschagne scored a brisk 44 off 49 balls in the second innings. He also got a 90 in the first Test. If Pakistan don’t get him early, Australia’s No.3 could make them pay.
Although David Warner has managed only 111 runs in the last two games, he still averages a whopping 91 against Pakistan, including the highest score of 335*.
Nathan Lyon created plenty of hope for the visitors in the last session of the second Test. The premier off-spinner can be a tricky customer to negotiate if the pitch starts offering assistance. He dismissed the likes of Babar and Imam-ul-Haq in the second innings at Karachi.
Pakistan opener Abdullah Shafique has made the most of the docile pitches on offer by scoring 289 runs, including 136* in the second innings of the first Test.
The pacers from both teams have visibly struggled to extract any purchase from the unresponsive wickets in the first two Tests. However, Mitchell Starc is known for his prodigious reverse swing. He dismissed Fawad Alam for a duck with one of his trademark deliveries in Karachi.
After slamming consecutive centuries in both innings of the opening Test, opener Imam-ul-Haq couldn’t ride the momentum in the second Test. However, the southpaw is known for grinding out long knocks.
Steven Smith has scores of 78 and 72 in the only two innings he has batted on this tour, unable to convert them into triple figures. In fact, his last Test hundred came nine matches ago, against India in January 2021.
If Pakistan are to win the final Test and the series, the curator in Lahore will be compelled to prepare spin-friendly wickets. In that case, Nauman Ali and Sajid Khan will come into play.
With the series locked at 0-0, there is everything to play for in Lahore. That said, a result, one way or the other will depend on the nature of the pitch.
The Gaddafi Stadium has been a decent hunting ground for Pakistan. Since losing to Sri Lanka in 2002, the hosts have never lost another Test match at this venue in eight outings. Meanwhile, Australia last played a Test at Lahore in 1994 that ended in a draw.