Misbah and Broad prove repeats worth watching
Misbah-ul-Haq and Stuart Broad showed the virtue of the three Rs - repetition, repetition, repetition - on the first day of the second Test between England and Pakistan in Abu Dhabi. Together the pair provided a demonstration of one of the timeless virtues of cricket.
We tend to overcomplicate the game. Before this series we heard talk of doosras and teesras and reverse-swing. In reality, the matches to date have been dominated by those who have played straight and those who have bowled straight. It is those who have tried to experiment who have suffered.
Misbah is the spine of the Pakistan team. Without him their batting would appear fragile and, in both Tests so far, he has provided resistance at a time when it appeared England's bowlers could take the initiative.
He does this, largely, through a decent technique and steadfast determination. Perhaps he lacks the talent of Younis Khan, or even Umar Akmal, but who would Pakistan rather have at the crease with a Test to save and a day to bat?
Most of his colleagues played a large part in their own downfall. Taufeeq Umar left an arm ball, Younis Khan played across a straight one, Asad Shafiq tarnished his fine innings by attempting a horrid sweep. But Misbah batted on. He played and missed a few times and he was badly missed by James Anderson at slip off Monty Panesar on 30. Generally, however, he played straight, left with discipline and waited for scoring opportunities to come his way. Sounds simple, doesn't it?
Shafiq demonstrated what can happen when you try to experiment. After compiling an excellent, controlled half-century, he suddenly tried something different - a full-blooded sweep - and his excellent innings was over. Misbah wasn't going to allow himself to make the same mistake.
Even when Misbah attacked, he did so with intelligence. Twice he struck Panesar for successive sixes; the second time in the last over of the day. Some might consider that reckless, but Misbah had reasoned that the field was in, that he had no need to leave his ground, he was still playing straight and that the percentages were in his favour. It was, as his team-mate Taufeeq Umar said afterwards, the action of "a thinking cricketer."
And to think, Misbah was so nearly lost to Pakistan cricket. When he was omitted from the team for the ill-fated 2010 tour of England - he was actually left out of a 35-man squad at one stage - he was so disappointed he said he felt like burning his kit. Had it not been for the sad events of that year, he may never have won another chance.
So often, the best innings are not about the strokes a batsman plays, but those he does not. They are about discipline. About concentration. About denial. We know that Misbah has a full array of shots - his success in limited-overs cricket over the years has proved that - but for long periods of the day, he was almost strokeless: content just to pick up runs through deflections and nudges. He did not hit a four for the first 138 balls of his innings.
He knows when to attack, though. Having worn down the England bowlers, he used the extra pace of the new ball to claim five fours in his next 22 balls. More importantly, he has kept his side in the Test. He is adept at batting with the tail and, if he can eke out another 50 or so runs with them on the second day, Pakistan will not be so far away from a par score.
Broad could feel equally proud of his performance. He bowled beautifully. Maintaining a nagging off stump line and an excellent probing length, he kept on forcing the batsmen to play and gained just enough seam movement to keep them in two minds. He barely conceded two an over and scarcely delivered a poor ball. Glenn McGrath would have been proud.
It was, in a way, simple. Broad just concentrated on hitting the pitch hard on that in between length where batsmen are unsure whether to play forward or back. And if they missed, as Younis Khan, Azhar Ali and Adnan Akmal did, he was going to hit.
Yes, he delivered the odd bouncer and it was all the more effective for the fact that it is used sparingly. But he has forgotten all that nonsense about being England's "enforcer". He has forgotten all that nonsense about sledging batsmen or, even worse, throwing the ball at them. And he's forgotten about trying to bounce out every batsman in world cricket.
Instead he has matured into a fine fast-medium bowler. With his height and his pace, he has all the attributes to develop into one of the best in the world. Maybe he will never become the true allrounder that he once promised to. But if he can continue to bowl like this - with this discipline and control - he will have served England very well indeed.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo