MELBOURNE: Australia conjured up a miraculous final day victory to claim the second Test at the MCG and win the series against Pakistan after the visitors suffered a familiar, spectacular implosion attempting to save the match.
After Australia declared at 624 for 8 - the highest ever score at the MCG - just before lunch, Pakistan collapsed to be dismissed for 163 in the 54th over. Australia's innings and 18-run victory meant they safely claimed the match midway through the final session with 14 overs left. Australia have now won 11 straight Test matches at home against Pakistan, who have still have never tasted a series victory Down Under.
Australia claimed five wickets after Tea and the result was virtually sealed when Mitchell Starc (4 for 36) went through the defenses of plucky wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed (43 from 62 balls) with an unplayable searing delivery that claimed the top of the off-stump. Starc, who had been lethargic in the first innings, summoned a mesmerising spell in the last session to propel Australia to a memorable victory.
All of Australia's bowlers played a role with Nathan Lyon (3 for 33 from 14 overs), the maligned off-spinner, emerging as an unlikely hero after claiming three vital wickets in the second session to turn the match on its head.
On a seemingly flat pitch, Australia needed early wickets if they were to achieve an astounding victory and, accordingly, Hazelwood struck in the second over of the innings by claiming tentative opener Sami Aslam (2), who played on.
It left Pakistan a nervy 6 for 1 at Lunch and things took a turn for the worst on resumption with Babar Azam (3) trapped in front by Starc in a dubious decision but was upheld by DRS. Almost out of nowhere, the match had flipped but calm was restored through the indefatigable Azhar and veteran Younis Khan (24), who combined in a 57-run partnership as the draw once again appeared the favoured result.
Lyon, who has been heavily criticised after continual sub-par performances, stunningly flipped the match on its head by nabbing the key wickets of Younis and Misbah-ul-Haq (0) within three deliveries to leave Pakistan teetering at 63 for 4 midway through the second session.
In an abominable tactic, completing a head-scratching match from the Pakistani captain, Misbah decided to premeditate sweeping Lyon from the get go, which proved his undoing when he was caught by Nic Maddinson at short fine leg from just his second ball faced.
Lyon continued his revival and match-turning performance by removing in-form No.6 Asad Shafiq (15), who was snaffled in a juggling effort by Maddinson at short-leg. Pakistan were 89 for 5 and apparitions of numerous collapses rearing.
Earlier, Australia started the fifth day at 6 for 456 and with no rain hovering around Melbourne, finally, a tantalising finale loomed if Smith sought to go for the jugular. Starc, a muscular batsman, most certainly went on the attack, smashing an MCG record seven sixes in his belligerent 91-ball 84.
Perhaps with an eye to conserve energy, Starc was intent on slogging and connected numerously, smashing Yasir Shah, the struggling leg spinner, with slog sweeps. He wasn't merely bullying the spinners, Starc launched at the pacemen too notably when he mixed orthodoxy - a gorgeous straight drive - with unorthodoxy off Sohail Khan to bring up a 69-ball fifty.
On 51, Starc received a reprieve when he was dropped by Sohail at long-off in one of the easiest chances imaginable. It summed up Pakistan's catastrophic session marked by horrendous, almost comical, fielding. There were numerous fielding mistakes as Pakistan were unravelling; all the goodwill they had built during an impressive fightback in the series was suddenly becoming undone in familiar shoddy fashion.
After the reprieve, Starc continued on his merry way, hitting Azhar for consecutive sixes as a maiden century loomed to erase the heartbreak of having 99 as his best Test score. Joining the revelry and looking for quick runs with a declaration imminent, Smith - whose Test average rose above the hallowed 60 mark - was at his audacious best, manipulating the field with ease.
A clueless Misbah had no answer to Australia's spiralling run rate and resorted to spreading the field out with every fielder bar two on the boundary. The astounding tactics didn't stymie the runs with Starc and Smith clobbering 40 runs in three overs at one stage.
Just as he neared his century, Starc's chancy knock finally ended when he was caught on the boundary trying to hook Sohail. The rapid 154-run partnership between Smith and Starc provided the perfect boost for Australia to gain a handy lead and put a sizeable amount of pressure on a jittery Pakistan.
Fifteen minutes before the lunch break, Smith declared at 624 for 8 -with the Australian captain unbeaten on 165 - forcing Pakistan to face a tricky period before the long interval and a minimum of 68 overs.
Pakistan, in another eyesore of litany of failed attempts, were unable to handle the pressure and imploded to once again lose the unlosable.