Australian cricketers are opening up on the COVID-19 controversy involving Indian players.

Pakistan survived an intriguing last session to reach 73-0 on day four after a bold declaration by Australia set a tricky target of 351 runs in the series-deciding third test on Thursday.

Opening batters Imam-ul-Haq, 42 not out, and Abdullah Shafique, 27 not out, survived television referrals against offspinner Nathan Lyon to leave the home team still needing 278 runs in a minimum 90 overs on the last day Friday.

Shafique had a close escape when Steve Smith’s poor run in the slips continued as the Australia vice-captain couldn’t hold onto a sharp chance off Marnus Labuschagne’s penultimate ball of the day.

Captain Pat Cummins declared Australia’s second innings at 227-3 shortly after tea, Usman Khawaja having achieved an unbeaten 104, his second successive century to round off a brilliant tour to the country of his birth.

It gave Australia nearly four sessions to have a crack at Pakistan, after missing out in the second test at Karachi where Pakistan batted for 171.4 overs and forced an epic draw.

“It’s a brave declaration, no doubt about it,” Pakistan batting coach Mohammad Yousuf said. He added he was expecting Australia to bat for a few more overs and set a target of around 380 runs.

“The way our openers have batted (in the last session), it has given us confidence. We will definitely go for victory tomorrow.”

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