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Azhar Ali, who struck a fine unbeaten ton on second day, is greeted by fans at start of Day Two Getty Images

For Pakistan to keep their hopes alive of a series win in Australia, a victory at Melbourne in the Boxing Day Test is a must. Trailing 0-1 after their narrow defeat in the opening Test at Brisbane, Pakistan have done almost everything right so far in the second Test at Melbourne. But a lot of hard work is left for Misbah-ul-Haq s team to force a result in this contest, and their biggest hurdle is persistent rains that have so far washed out about 78 overs in the contest. In the remaining three days, Pakistan will have to ensure they have enough runs on the board to take 20 wickets and seal a win. Certainly an improbable task unless Australia collapse.

On a batting-friendly wicket at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), Pakistan have so far accumulated 310 for 6 in their first innings. Azhar Ali has notched up a terrific unbeaten century, and Asad Shafiq (50) and Mohammad Aamer (28 not out off 21 balls) have chipped in with valuable contributions. But several rain interruptions so far in the last two days have washed off quality time, which Pakistan could have utilised to consolidate their position.

Full Cricket Scorecard, Australia vs Pakistan, 2nd Test at Melbourne

Pakistan will need a total big enough to make Australia bat twice, but keeping in mind the time they have consumed to make these 310 runs puts their position in threat. Their batsmen have applied themselves extremely well, they have put heavy prices on their wickets, but some quality fast bowling by Australia and Pakistan s own lack of intent to look aggressively for runs may end up working against them.

A slow scoring rate and intermittent rains have left Pakistan a lot to do in the final three days. Pakistan do not have a lot of batting left, which means, Azhar will have to start scoring aggressively and hope that his partners at the other end do the same. While Pakistani tail consisting Aamer, Wahab Riaz and even Yasir Shah can hit big strokes, it remains to be seen whether they can be consistent with the bat or not. The Pakistani tail resisted Australians extremely well in the second innings of the opening Test, but here, the challenge is to score briskly.

On the other hand, Australia will find themselves in a perplexing situation. Even though they have not allowed Pakistani batsmen to score freely by maintain tight lines that hardly gave them any room, the inability to keep knocking over wickets at regular basis will be slightly concerning. Hazlewood has claimed 2 wickets, but the bowler who has snaffled the most scalps has been expensive as well. Jackson Bird has given away 91 runs for his 3 wickets, whereas Mitchell Starc has raised Australia s concerns further. Starc is yet to take a wicket despite sending down more than 23 overs so far.

Australia are ahead 1-0 in the ongoing three-Test series, and if rain continues to hamper the Melbourne Test, they would not mind walking off with a drawn-contest since their lead will remain intact. A draw at Melbourne will also erase the possibility of Pakistan winning this series, which Australia would not mind since they are coming off defeats to Sri Lanka and South Africa.

However, as of now, it can be asserted that Australia do not find themselves under pressure. The forecast for the third day is similar to second, wherein only a little over 50 overs were bowled. Even on the first day, only 50.5 overs were bowled. If this remains the case on Day Three, it will be interesting to see what Pakistan are able to achieve in about 50 overs on a wicket which has been assisting the batsmen.

Meanwhile, Azhar will be pleased with his effort on Tuesday which saw him entering the special league of Test batsmen who scored more than 1,000 runs in the calendar year 2016. Azhar scored 139 off 287 balls, hitting 12 boundaries in the process. This was Azhar s 12th Test century, and his third against Australia. In this year, Azhar has made 3 centuries, which also includes a triple century against West Indies in UAE.