Pakistan v England, 2nd Test, Abu Dhabi, 3rd day January 27, 2012

Azhar and Shafiq fight but England hold edge


Pakistan 257 and 125 for 4 (Azhar 46*, Shafiq 35*) lead England 327 (Cook 94, Trott 74, Broad 58*, Ajmal 4-108) by 55 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

For the first time in their notional home series, Pakistan had a crowd to strengthen their resolve. They came in their thousands after Friday prayers and sat on the grassy banks at the Sheikh Zayed stadium. What they witnessed was Test cricket at its most attritional but they also witnessed a clue to Pakistan's batting future.

Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq came together at 54 for 4 with Pakistan still 16 runs in arrears and England's bowlers coming to terms with the rigours of playing Test cricket in Asia. It is a rare sight to see England with two spinners bowling to an attacking ring. With Pakistan faltering, they were even beginning to think they might like it.

This time Azhar and Shafiq did not have Misbah-ul-Haq at the non-striker's end learnedly chiding them to be patient but they were patient all the same. They ground out 71 at barely two an over and when the third day closed they had drawn the fire from England's attack. Shafiq treated Pakistan's supporters to two successive boundaries off Monty Panesar, Azhar offered a couple of serene drives and a skip down the pitch to loft Graeme Swann over long-on but it was stern-minded stuff.

Their response was essential. Much was made of England's flimsy top-order batting during their 10-wicket defeat in Dubai; Pakistan's looked just as brittle. Panesar and Swann have not been as magical as Saeed Ajmal, nor have they turned the ball as sharply as Abdur Rehman, but in their first Test together for two-and-a-half years they laid down a challenge.

Mohammad Hafeez and Taufeeq Umar fell to nothing more substantial than artfully-pitched straight balls; a substantial sandstorm could blow through the gap between Taufeeq's bat and pad. Younis Khan got a beauty from Panesar which turned to uproot his off stump. Then the old fox, Misbah, fell: a third wicket for Panesar. Misbah looked for a reprieve on DRS but the dispassionate conclusion had to be that the third umpire, Billy Bowden, was right to conclude that the ball had hit pad before bat.

The growing quality of pitches in the UAE has contributed to two engrossing Tests. It was widely anticipated that this could be a tedious series on unresponsive pitches. Instead, there has been enough life for bowlers to relish an even contest. For those watching from England, whichever side they have been rooting for, it has been well worth an early alarm call.

But the main benefits have come from the advent of DRS. Technology is rapidly making defensive pad play a thing of the past as umpires grant lbw decisions where once they would have looked askance. The game is different now: livelier, more combative and eminently more watchable. The downside is that lbw decisions are at an all-time high but with the future of Test cricket in such doubt, technology has provided a timely shot in the arm.

That England were able to put the squeeze on Pakistan owed everything to Stuart Broad, whose enterprising, unbeaten, 58 from 62 balls gave them a 70-run first-innings lead. England made 116 runs in the morning session at a rate of nearly 4.5 runs an over as Broad poured his frustration with England's careworn batting in the series into every shot. He had made some mildly provocative remarks about his England batting colleagues after Pakistan had been bowled out for 257, remarking on Twitter that it would make no difference if the batsmen did not frame themselves.

When Ajmal had broken England's dominance with three quick wickets on the second evening, frustration had been etched into Broad's face as he watched from the boundary edge. At such times there is something endearing about his unabashed desire to win a cricket match.

He batted like a man on a mission. If it was up there he would hit it, old ball and new. He needed good fortune on 33 when he survived the narrowest of run out decisions by the third umpire Bowden. Azhar pounced on the ball from cover and threw down the stumps as Broad chanced a single off Junaid Khan. As he dived for the crease it was debatable whether his bat was grounded. But he brought up England's 300 by slog-sweeping Abdur Rehman's left-arm spin for six into the Knocking Area - a sanctuary perhaps for the England batsmen he had previously chided.

The old ball was 84.5 overs old at start of play but Misbah entrusted the task of dismantling England's lower order to his spinners. Matt Prior was intent on playing them off the back foot whenever possible but Ajmal had his measure. He was badly dropped at deep square-leg by Junaid and then spared from an lbw decision by the tiniest inside edge. By the time Ajmal had him lbw on the back foot, a decision upheld after an England review, it was apparent he needed to be put out of his misery.

Ian Bell was also dropped, a rasping return catch to Rehman which flew through his hands for four, and was also beaten several times by Rehman's sharp turn. His tremors against Ajmal's doosra were less apparent but he fell to Gul and the second new ball, England failing with DRS for the second time.

Pakistan finally parcelled up England's innings one over into the afternoon as Hafeez, an increasingly redoubtable all-round cricketer, took two wickets in three balls. Panesar, whose last Test innings had been a heroic rearguard action against Australia in Cardiff, this time managed a more prosaic second-ball duck. Panesar, lbw, signalled that he had hit it, but England had omitted to save a review for him.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 28, 2012, 13:37 GMT

    @HumanhHoneyBadger on (January 27 2012, 08:40 AM GMT) i firstly would like to say that talking big usually a funny way of biting ur backside... secondly something tells me your not an england fan because most england fans on here have a sense of humour and are usually honest and very rarely make sniping comments at the opposition... please publish

  • John on January 28, 2012, 9:07 GMT

    @reality_check on (January 27 2012, 14:16 PM GMT) - Come on man - "Average Team?" Why are they an average team just because they've not won in recent years in the SC ? From 1995-2001 Australia lost 3 series in India and were they average? Agree there's a long way to go but right now we're at worst very competitive vs the best SC team.

  • John on January 28, 2012, 9:07 GMT

    @richardror on (January 27 2012, 11:01 AM GMT) - Think you mean due to strength rather than lack of tailenders. Otherwise your comm. Makes no sense

  • John on January 28, 2012, 9:06 GMT

    @HumanhHoneyBadger on (January 27 2012, 08:40 AM GMT) - Come on man - be fair. Pakistan annihilated us in the 1st test and while we are probably slight favourites in this match Pakistan are still extremely competitive. What I'd suggest is to aim such comments at the person/people who have been lording it rather than the majority of Pakistan fans who have been very respectful. Please show their fans un general respect

  • wasib on January 28, 2012, 8:38 GMT

    Time for Umar Akmal to be brought in to replace his brother Adnan. I've seen Umar keep in ODI's and he's on a par with Adnan. He will strengthen the batting significantly and batting at 7 should give him plenty of rest between innings. Sri Lanka did it with Chandimal and the result was amazing.

  • shahzeb on January 28, 2012, 8:34 GMT

    this game is turning out to be a perfect test battle between two very best test playing nations the spirits of test cricket was retained by these two teams as many other teams failed to do so like ind vs aus good luck for both the teams 150+ would be a difficult task for england as broad underestimated our attack by saying that they would easily chasing around 250 odd

  • Richard on January 28, 2012, 8:11 GMT

    Now Pakistan are 198/7 I can't see them winning this, however can see how they will be a very complete side soon, once the youngsters gain experience and Misbah becomes less defensive as a captain and they will become (even more so) a side to be reckoned with.

  • Dummy4 on January 28, 2012, 7:58 GMT

    TARGET OF 150 OR 160 in this Track are quite handy.England have to play realyy well if they chase visibly small but tricky Target.

  • Dummy4 on January 28, 2012, 7:33 GMT

    There's absolutely no space for Pakistan to win this match as far as logic is concerned; Yes, teams lose, even the good ones. Pakistan has to very hard for some respect attainment for which it has no great bowlers, except Ajmal and Rehman. Gul, who hasn't been observed on the best of forms. A slender lead as such is of almost nothing to defend against titans like England.

  • Basit on January 28, 2012, 5:51 GMT

    good luck Pakistan! lets have a good day of test cricket

  • No featured comments at the moment.