MELBOURNE, Dec 29 (Reuters) - Usman Khawaja missed out on a century but fifties to captain Steve Smith and Peter Handscomb drove Australia to 395 for four at lunch on day four, cutting Pakistan’s first innings lead to 48 runs in the second test in Melbourne on Thursday.
Australia resumed on 278 for two, with Khawaja adding only two runs to his overnight total of 95 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground before he was caught behind playing a loose drive away from the body off paceman Wahab Riaz.
Smith was unbeaten on 61, with number six batsman Nic Maddinson, under pressure after a string of batting failures in his first two tests, seven not out.
Khawaja’s wicket was a reward for some rare sustained pressure by Pakistan’s pacemen but they promptly loosened their grip, allowing Smith and new batsman Handscomb to race to a 92-run partnership on a hot and humid morning.
Handscomb marched to his half-century, his third score over 50 in his first three tests, off 69 balls and seamer Mohammad Amir dropped him off his own bowling on 51, making a mess of the sharp, low chance.
Against the run of play, Handscomb was gone for 54 when he sliced Sohail Khan straight to Sami Aslam at point.
Smith marched on to bring up his 20th fifty with a single off Sohail, following on from his dominant batting in the series-opening win in Brisbane where he scored 130 and 63.
A series of rain interruptions blighted the opening days and weather could ultimately decide the match, but Australia were well placed to surpass Pakistan’s first innings of 443 for nine declared, and set their batsmen a task on the final day.
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