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February 3, 2012
England 104 for 6 (Strauss 41*, Rehman 3-23) lead Pakistan 99 (Shafiq 45, Broad 4-36) by 5 runs Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
England's batting has been so ineffably weak in this Test series that even the sight of a Pakistan side bundled out for 99 was not about to fill them with resolve. Where once they were steadfast now they are overwrought. All logic suggested they should have ended the opening day of the third Test in a position of authority but logic left this series long ago.
It is the first time that Test cricket has been played in winter in the UAE and the pitches have been enlivened from their usual moribund state as a result but not remotely to the extent that the scores suggest. Every day brings something more bizarre. This should not by any stretch of the imagination have been a 16-wicket day.
Pakistan avoided their lowest Test score against England thanks only to 45 from Asad Shafiq, the one batsman to pass muster as England's new-ball pair, Stuart Broad and James Anderson, made full use of encouraging conditions. Pakistan began the final Test imagining they could whitewash England in a Test series for the first time. It is quite something to be dismissed for fewer than 100 on a decent-enough surface and still be in the match.
An England innings has become something fantastical. The DRS has sapped their resolve. It was introduced to reduce umpiring mistakes, and it has achieved its purpose, but in this series at least, it has shifted the balance of the game fundamentally. Umpires in this series are giving most marginal calls to the bowler, too many marginal calls. Batsmen are confused about their technique and spinners are bowling straight and imagining themselves as superheroes. It will right itself in time; the authorities are not fond of three-day Tests.
This series has already produced more lbws than in any three-Test series in history - 35 and counting. There were eight umpiring reviews and the Australian Simon Taufel, who has mused about retirement more than once, had an uncomfortable day as he had several decisions overturned.
Almost unnoticed, Andrew Strauss reached the close of a bewildering day unbeaten on 41, an England captain labouring to add a major batting contribution to his undoubted leadership qualities. Overlook a flirt with a sweep or two and he stood alongside Shafiq and Kevin Pietersen as the most secure batsmen on an insecure day.
Memories of England's batting debacles in the first two Tests must have preyed on Alastair Cook's mind as he fell to the sort of hesitant jab against Umar Gul that Australia, in England's victorious Ashes series barely a year ago, must have dreamed of. Gul also had Trott lbw: a dodgy decision by the umpire, Steve Davis, which England failed to review.
Then came the curiosities. Kevin Pietersen looked in good trim but fell to left-arm spin once more, a marginal decision that might have been designed to taunt his pre-match assertion that his record against this type of bowler was "not a train crash". Ian Bell was out to Saeed Ajmal for the fourth series, straying out of his crease and stumped fortuitously by Adnan Akmal off a blur of pads and gloves - that is how his brother Kamran used to do it. Eoin Morgan, his reputation as a good player of spin now in tatters, was trapped on the back foot by a quicker, flatter one. And finally Matt Prior, desperate not to be struck on the pads, was bowled by one that turned.
Pakistan were no better. By drinks on the first morning, England had five Pakistan wickets; shortly after drinks came round again in the afternoon they had them all. This was far from a fast bowlers' feast but Broad, England's outstanding player of the series, and Anderson made full use of a little swing and some unexpected bounce.
Broad's new-ball return of 3 for 12 in six overs included two overturned decisions for Taufel as England successfully resorted to DRS. The dismissal of Mohammad Hafeez was the most controversial of the day.
England were searching for a lbw decision but there seemed to be little conclusive evidence to overturn Taufel's decision. Indeed those blessed with the eyes of a hawk and high-definition TVs insisted there was a slight mark on hot spot that should have reprieved Hafeez. Shavir Tarapore, the third umpire from India in his fourth Test, gave him out, causing Hafeez to slap his bat in unconcealed disgust.
In the seconds a fielding side has to decide on a review, the captain, Andrew Strauss, mentally dons a business suit, calls a meeting, studies a report, draws conclusions and lays out a systematic process. The sense is of clipboards, posh pens and PowerPoint presentations. Misbah tries to do the same for Pakistan but he is a bit short of reliable middle management.
In England in 2010, Pakistan collapsed for 72, 76 and 80, three batting disasters at Edgbaston, Lord's and Trent Bridge that count among their eight lowest Test scores in history. They no longer had to contend with a surly English summer but they did face the debilitating effect of a series already secured.
Their collapse began in the first over, Taufeeq Umar defeated by Anderson's inswinger. There were few demons in the ball from Broad that dismissed Azhar and Younis Khan's jab at a wide, rising ball, even allowing for the unexpected steepness of the bounce: another poor shot in a career nearing its end.
Misbah and Adnan, who should also have been run out by Morgan, both turned to DRS without success to try to stem the flow of wickets. Rehman's slog at Graeme Swann, in his solitary over, was the worst batting moment on a day replete with them. Shafiq was ninth out, trying to cut Panesar and getting struck on the pad in front of middle.
For Pakistan the morning had brought back bad memories of their first Test in the UAE. Against Australia in Sharjah ten years ago they were dismissed for 53 and 59 - their two lowest Test scores. Misbah, Taufeeq and Younis were all in the top six then. In some ways little has changed in Pakistan cricket. In other, more significant ways, everything has changed.
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