Mohammad Asif took three wickets in a dramatic burst either side of tea as Australia finished on 229 for nine when bad light forced an early close on the first day of the first Test against Pakistan at Lord’s on Tuesday.
Asif took three wickets for no runs in seven balls on his way to a return of three for 53 in 17 overs.
Meanwhile, teenage left-arm quick Mohammad Aamer, his new ball-partner, made the early inroads on his way to a haul of three for 66 in 18 overs.
Australia’s batsmen all struggled after Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi won the toss and elected to field in overcast, seam-bowler friendly, conditions.
Only left-handed opener Simon Katich, who made 80 but might have been LBW for two, had so far got past 50 although Michael Hussey was 39 not out, with Doug Bollinger unbeaten on nought, at stumps.
Asif struck with the last ball before tea when he had Clarke LBW for 47 to end a third-wicket stand worth 120 with Katich.
And nine balls after the break, Katich pushed uncertainly outside off-stump against Asif and was caught behind by wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal for 80.
Katich, who has scored fifty in each of his last nine Tests, faced 138 balls with nine fours in more than three hours at the crease.
By contrast, three balls later, Marcus North, also a left-hander, was clean bowled between bat and pad by an Asif inswinger for nought.
Hussey pulled Kaneria for six to bring up the 200 but Australia were 208 for seven after Test debutants Tim Paine (seven) and Steven Smith (one) fell cheaply to Umar Gul and leg-spinner Danish Kaneria respectively.
Pakistan, bidding for their first Test win over Australia in 15 years, saw Aamer, who starred in last week’s back-to-back wins over the Aussies at Edgbaston, strike first when he dismissed opener Shane Watson for four to leave Australia eight for one.
The 18-year-old had already had one close LBW decision against Katich, then on two, rejected when he rapped Watson, playing no stroke, on the pad.
English umpire Ian Gould turned down that appeal but next ball Watson again, curiously, padded up. Gould was in the process of giving him out LBW when the ball trickled onto the stumps and dislodged a bail, meaning Watson was out bowled.
Watson’s exit brought Australia captain and star batsman Ricky Ponting to the crease in what could be the 35-year-old’s last Test at Lord’s.
Ponting, along with India’s Sachin Tendulkar and the West Indies’ now retired Brian Lara, the other two outstanding batsmen of the last decade, has yet to make a Test century at the “home of cricket.”
He had made 26 when he clipped Aamer firmly off his pads only for debutant Umar Amin to take an excellent catch at short-leg.
A jubilant Aamer collided with Ponting as he celebrated, just as he’d done when dismissing Clarke in the second Twenty20.
But whereas Clarke patted Aamer on the back, Ponting reacted angrily.
The Aamer/Amin combination almost accounted for Clarke, then on four, when the short-leg failed to hold a tough chance.
This is the first of a two-Test series being played in England because international cricket was suspended in Pakistan following the armed attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in March last year.
This match was also the first time a “neutral” Test had been played in England since the 1912 triangular tournament where Australia and South Africa, along with England, made up the competing teams.
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