Starc brilliance earns Australia series victory
Published: 2016-12-30 17:19:50.0 BdST Updated: 2016-12-30 17:19:50.0 BdST
Mitchell Starc shone with bat and ball as Australia dismissed Pakistan for 163 to secure an innings and 18-run victory in the second Test on Friday, the win giving the hosts an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
Lanky left-arm paceman Starc smashed 84 with the bat, including a record seven sixes at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, then tore through Pakistan's tail with 4-36 as Australia's bowlers snatched an unlikely win from a rain-blighted match.
Pakistan's capitulation left their captain heart-broken and after falling for a second-ball duck with a rash sweep-shot, 42-year-old veteran Misbah-ul-Haq said he would consider retiring before the series finale in Sydney.
For home captain and man of the match Steve Smith, it was a golden day as he smashed an unbeaten 165 in the morning session and watched Pakistan disintegrate on a sun-bathed afternoon.
After declaring Australia's first innings at 624 for eight just before lunch, Smith gave his bowlers 68 overs to run through the tourists.
In the end, they needed only 53.2 overs of the quota as Pakistan's demise hastened against the reversing ball after tea.
"I said to the boys that cricket's a funny game and anything can happen," Smith told reporters of his morning address to his team.
"I thought Starcy was incredible.
"(It's) pretty surreal to have now wrapped up the series. We have got a lot of belief in the guys around. The guys are doing the hard yards to improve every day."
Pakistan lost the first Test in Brisbane by 39 runs but won admiration for their dogged fourth innings resistance, when they put an Australian record total of 450 on the board.
Much of that acclaim evaporated on Friday as their shambolic batting followed an equally abysmal effort in the field in the morning.
Pakistan's 52-year wait for a maiden series win in Australia goes on and they have now lost four matches in succession.
"It was sheer pressure, I think," a downcast Misbah said of his team's surrender.
"In the second innings, (Australia) bowled good, really well... I think we should take the blame as a batting unit."
Australia spinner Nathan Lyon shrugged off recent form woes to bowl his best spell of the series, capturing three wickets in the middle session, two of them in three balls to remove stalwarts Younus Khan (24) and Misbah.
Rookie batsman Peter Handscomb was outstanding at short leg, clutching two tough chances to remove Younus and Asad Shafiq for 16.
Pakistan went to tea on a shaky 91-5 and three overs after the break, seamer Josh Hazlewood trapped Azhar Ali, Pakistan's last specialist batsman, lbw for 43.
Paceman Jackson Bird bowled Mohammad Amir for 11 and a sizzling Starc inswinger accounted for wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed for 43, cleaned up through the gate.
Starc returned to bowl Wahab Riaz for a duck and wrapped up the win by having Yasir Shah sky an easy catch to Bird at mid-on.
Following the Hobart thrashing by South Africa, which surrendered the series, Australia's new-look team have won their last three matches in succession.
In Melbourne it was their senior players leading from the front, with David Warner's run-a-ball 143 and Smith's 17th ton setting a platform before Lyon and Starc brought the match home.
"We're still a work in progress. We're a young team and I'm proud of the boys," Smith added.
"It's been outstanding but we want a clean sweep in Sydney."
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