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MELBOURNE: Mitchell Marsh hit a counter-attacking 96 in a fighting rescue mission with a dogged Steve Smith Thursday to help Australia build a 241-run lead and regain control of the second Test against Pakistan.

The hosts were reeling at 16-4 after dismissing Pakistan for 264 in reply to their first innings 318 in Melbourne.

But Marsh and Smith put their heads down to compile what could be a match-saving 153-run partnership.

At stumps on day three, the hosts were 187-6 with Smith out for 50, off 176 balls, in the last over of the day, leaving Alex Carey unbeaten on 16.

Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mir Hamza both took three wickets.

It could have been a different story but Abdullah Shafique spilled a regulation catch in the slips when Marsh was on 20.

Marsh eventually fell four runs short of a deserved century, but it took a superb one-handed diving catch at slip from Agha Salman to remove him.

After Cummins took 5-48 and Nathan Lyon 4-73 to dismiss Pakistan, Australia needed to negotiate a tricky 15 minutes of the morning session.

But Usman Khawaja was out for a duck second ball, caught behind by Mohammad Rizwan off bowling spearhead Afridi.

The same combination struck again when Marnus Labuschagne edged down the legside on five as the hosts slumped to 6-2 at lunch.

When they returned, David Warner let rip with a drive to the boundary off Afridi, but he didn’t last, dragging a Mir Hamza ball on to his stumps on six.

He received a standing ovation as he walked off for the last time as a batsman at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, with the third Test in Sydney set to be the last of his long career.

Things got worse for the hosts when Travis Head was bowled by Hamza’s inswinging yorker next delivery to leave Australia in disarray at 16-4. But Marsh saw off the hat-trick ball and along with Smith dug in to take the sting out of the attack.

Cummins takes five

When Aamer Jamal came on, Marsh slammed three boundaries in four balls to further relieve the pressure before the missed chance by Abdullah.

Smith played a crucial supporting role, taking 101 balls for his first boundary before reaching a gritty 40th Test half-century.

Pakistan had begun the day on 194-6, after an electric spell from Cummins in the final session on Wednesday saw a collapse from 124-1, and the Australia skipper was again in the thick of the action.

Australia take control of second Test as Pakistan flounder

Rizwan made a confident start, adding 13 to his overnight 29.

But he was no match for a canny Cummins, who tempted him into a drive that flew straight to Warner who had just been moved to cover from slip.

It broke a 45-run partnership with Jamal who began to play his shots.

New partner Afridi crunched four boundaries before he was undone by Lyon’s spin, trapped lbw for 21.

Jamal was in good touch, finding the ropes three times in six balls at one point in his 33 not out.

Cummins grabbed his fifth wicket by bowling Hasan Ali for two before Lyon had Hamza stumped for the same score.

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