December 26, 2016 / 2:57 AM / 8 months ago

Australia hold edge after rain dampens Boxing Day cheer

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Rain dampened the enthusiasm of a festive Boxing Day crowd but Australia were content to knock over Pakistan's top order and leave the tourists 142 for four on day one of the second test in Melbourne on Monday.

Jackson Bird took two wickets, with fellow seamer Josh Hazlewood and spinner Nathan Lyon grabbing one apiece before play was abandoned after tea at a drizzly Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Pakistan will hope opener Azhar Ali, unbeaten on 66, and Brisbane centurion Asad Shafiq (four not out) can hold firm when play resumes on day two to give Misbah-ul-Haq's side a chance at a competitive total.

Thirty-nine overs were lost to the rain but Australia headed off pleased with their work after skipper Steve Smith lost the toss, having also hoped to bat on a green-tinged but mostly benign pitch.

"The first hour tomorrow is going to be crucial," Bird told reporters.

"If we can get one or two quick wickets, get Azhar Ali out early, then I think we're well on top in the game and we can look to push the game forward after that."

A warm and muggy morning gave way to a chilly afternoon as a cool change swept through from the west of Melbourne and Pakistan's fortunes fell with the temperature.

They had reached a position of some strength at 111-2 after lunch, but Bird grabbed the momentum back by bowling Younus Khan for 21 and removing another old-stager in Misbah for 11 before rain brought an early tea-break.

Azhar and Younus had carved out a 51-run partnership but it never seemed built on solid foundations.

Having overturned an lbw decision on review when he was on three, 39-year-old Younus hung out his bat against Bird and was bowled through the gate.

Misbah clubbed Lyon for six over the long on boundary on the first ball he faced against the spinner but lasted only 12 more deliveries before he gave up a nick off Bird, with Nic Maddinson diving low and forward to clutch an outstanding one-handed catch at short leg.

Maddinson's effort was the highlight of a strong day in the field for the Australians, with Smith pouching two catches in the slips.

The captain's second was a fine, low chance to remove Babar Azam for 23 when the number three batsman edged Hazlewood with the last ball before lunch.

The biggest roar from the crowd was for popular spinner Lyon, who came on in the 12th over to capture Australia's first wicket after Pakistan's openers saw off the initial pace assault.

The offspinner had Sami Aslam caught behind with his third ball, a venomous, turning delivery that reared off the pitch and clipped the batsman's glove on the way through to Smith at slip.

Australia were unchanged from the side that won the first test by 39 runs in Brisbane, with Pakistan dropping left-arm paceman Rahat Ali in favour of right-armer Sohail Khan.

Editing by Amlan Chakraborty

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