Prime Minister's XI 149 for 2 (Bancroft 53, Harris 49, Shahzad 1-23) trail Pakistan 391 for 9 dec (Masood 201*, Sarfaraz 41*, Buckingham 5-80) by 242 runs
Cameron Bancroft added a half-century to his impressive tally of runs this season but both he and Marcus Harris missed the opportunity for a substantial score in their bid for an Australia Test recall on the second day of the tour game against Pakistan in Canberra.
The opening pair, plus Matt Renshaw who is at No. 3 for the Prime Minister's XI, are in a tussle to replace David Warner when he retires from Test cricket in January although the next opener may yet come from outside of those three.
Renshaw and Cameron Green, who is set to be part of the discussions for the future shape of Australia's top order, were unbeaten at stumps with a chance to make a mark on the third day in what remain docile conditions.
"It's a good debate," Harris, who fell for 49, said of a potential batting order reshuffle. "You'd have to ask [the selectors] what they want to do. It's up to them. Opening the batting is not the easiest thing in the world but they've probably got a bit of time before they have to make that decision. It's up to them."
Harris, who holds a Cricket Australia contract, played the most recent of his 14 Tests against England last January before being dropped following Usman Khawaja's stunning return. A game earlier he had made 76 in tough conditions at the MCG.
"I feel like I've had seven or eight years of good cricket," he said. "Probably ever since I've moved to Victoria feel like I've proven myself enough, especially in domestic cricket, whether or not in international cricket that's up for debate and other people's opinion. In my last couple of Tests felt I was just getting going then things out of my control didn't go my way, but that's okay.
"I've been in this position the last few years, so if it comes down to one game then so be it," Harris added of a potential recall. "It's always nice to make runs whenever you are playing, it always helps, but unfortunately got out for 40-odd so not the greatest thing in the world but things happen."
Pakistan had declared at lunch on the second day shortly after Shan Masood brought up his double-century then Bancroft, the leading Sheffield Shield run-scorer of the season having held that title last summer as well, and Harris added 96 for the first wicket.
With Shaheen Shah Afridi, Hasan Ali and Mohammad Wasim all rested for this match, Pakistan are taking a look at others who may feature in Perth next week so it was not the strongest attack Bancroft and Harris could face.
Masood set fields to exploit the pair's perceived weaknesses, with a leg slip for Bancroft and a packed gully and backward point area for Harris. Bancroft edged through the cordon against Mir Hamza and Harris flashed at a couple of drives, but there were no early chances.
Progress was sedate with a slow pitch and sluggish outfield making free-scoring hard work and it was Harris who took the responsibility of forcing the pace. Three times he advanced at legspinner Abrar Ahmed to send him over the leg side. However, it was an attempted repeat of the stroke that brought his downfall for 49 when he found mid-on and the frustration was clear as he walked off. It has been an up-and-down season so far for Harris with Shield scores of 164 and 73 alongside seven innings under 20.
"Was good to spend some time in the middle. Disappointing to get out the way I did, but a pretty slow going sort of a day," Harris said. "It's been one of those [seasons] where I've got a few good balls early, a few interesting wickets then mixed in with some good scores which is the way it can be as an opening batter. My game feels in good order, I've felt really good probably the last month."
Bancroft's half-century came from 124 balls - his scoring rate could yet become a factor in the Test considerations - before he was lbw to Khurram Shahzad who got one to nip back.
Of Pakistan's bowlers, allrounder Aamer Jamal produced a bustling spell either side of tea which created a few uncomfortable moments while left-armer Hamza's second spell provided some threat.
Earlier, the morning session had largely been the story of Masood raising his third first-class double-century from 295 balls to leave him in good heart ahead of the Test series.
"It's always nice to spend some valuable time in the middle," Masood said. "Obviously conditions are a bit different but a sign of good players and good teams is how you adapt to different conditions. Each ground, each opposition has a different challenge."
Jordan Buckingham completed a five-wicket haul, the third of his young career, when he had Hamza fending to leg gully having also claimed his third scalp down the leg side when Jamal nicked a glance.