29 Dec 2016

Warner blasts Australia into contention

7:28 am on 29 December 2016

A rampaging David Warner smashed a run-a-ball century to fire Australia to 278 for two and wrest back the momentum from Pakistan after Azhar Ali's unbeaten double hundred buoyed the touring side on day three of the second test on Wednesday.

David Warner celebrates century against New Zealand.

David Warner celebrates his century. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Warner's exhilarating 144 anchored a 198-run partnership with Usman Khawaja at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, as Australia slashed the deficit to 165 runs after Pakistan's first innings declaration of 443-9 after lunch.

Khawaja was unbeaten on 95 at stumps, with captain Steve Smith on 10 not out and Australia holding genuine hope of forcing a result despite the rain interruptions that blighted the opening two days.

Warner's furious counter-attack sapped the morale from the tourists, who had also glimpsed a chance of a series-levelling victory following gritty opener Azhar's brilliant knock of 205.

More galling for Pakistan was that Warner was reprieved on 81 when he was bowled by a no ball from Wahab Riaz.

"We're in a good position now, our aim was to take the scoreboard out of the equation and just bat," said Warner after a hot and sunny afternoon of work.

"We can't control the weather but we just want to bat as big as we can."

Paceman Wahab had a dreadfully wayward day, sending down 10 no balls, including a hat-trick of overstepped marks in the over of Warner's non-dismissal.

It was a golden day, however, for opposing openers Warner and Azhar and both raced by a number of milestones.

Azhar's double hundred was the highest innings by a Pakistan player in Australia and only three runs shy of Viv Richards' 1984 record for touring batsmen at the MCG.

He also became his nation's first to surpass 200 twice in a calendar year, having scored an unbeaten 302 against West Indies in Dubai in October.