LAHORE: Australia has lost two early wickets as Pakistani pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi double struck after the touring team won the toss and decided to bat first in the final Test at the Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore.
At the lunch, Australia was 70 for the loss of two wickets as Shaheen removed opener David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja are at the wicket.
The winners-take-all Test holds special importance as the first two Tests, held at Rawalpindi and Karachi, ended in a draw.
Pakistan has included Naseem Shah in the squad. He has replaced Fahim Ashraf. Meanwhile, Australia has made no changes.
This will be the first five-day game Gaddafi Stadium will be hosting since the 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team that halted international cricket in Pakistan.
Pakistan has been holding international teams for the last couple of years and has also hosted foreign players for the Pakistan Super League (PSL), but Australia’s return after more than two decades (24 years to be precise) is the first full-fledged tour by a top team.
Babar, who just the other day batted a marathon inning to save the second Test at Karachi that was slipping away, will be leading his charges for the first time at his home venue in Test cricket.
“It’s a different feeling to play in front of the home crowd, at my home ground. I can’t explain this feeling,” Babar told reporters on Sunday.
He added that it will be a proud moment for his team if they can win the series.
The saviour role Babar and Mohammad Rizwan played in the Karachi Test have given them confidence and they will now go for the kill. “We took a lot of confidence from the way the team played the last Test,” Babar said.
Speaking about the Gaddafi stadium pitch, he said: “[It] looks like the same pitch but I feel it will give turn.”
“It has small cracks from where spinners can get help and patches are formed. But you can’t tell 100% because conditions are different. But whatever it is, our spinners are ready for it and will fight,” he said.
Meanwhile, Australian captain Pat Cummins said that they don’t expect the Gaddafi Stadium pitch to be much different from the first two Tests.
“There’s not a lot of grass on it,” Cummins said. “I think it’s had quite a lot of traffic throughout the PSL on it as well.
“It seems hard, but I can’t see it being too much different from the other ones,” he added.
He said he is happy with the performance of his boys so far. “I’ve been really happy with how everyone has gone about their work, the tactics, think it’s just a matter of taking those chances. Wickets are at a premium in this series so you can’t afford to drop too many chances,” he said.
Australia: Usman Khawaja, David Warner, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins (c), Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, Nathan Lyon.
Pakistan: Imam Ul Haq, Abdullah Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam (C), Fawad Alam, Mohammad Rizwan, Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Hassan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah.