Mushtaq bemoans Pakistan's sorry tail
No batting line-up has amassed more runs at a better average than Pakistan's in the past 18 months, but no other team has fielded a weaker tail. On the good days, it has not mattered - who cares what Nos. 8, 9, 10 and Jack contribute if the top seven can produce 29 centuries in 14 Tests? But on the day when they were called upon, the bowlers were rolled aside. Six wickets given away at the cost of 96 runs within 29 overs on the second morning in Dubai.
Misbah-ul-Haq's first-day hundred had given Pakistan resolve after a rare top-order wobble but the mainstay of Pakistan's batting today was Asad Shafiq, who stood tall as the lower order blew up around him. It was Sarfraz Ahmed who first left his Karachi childhood friend in the lurch by tossing a rash shot to mid-on. A ninth Test century would have been Asad's for the taking if anyone had hung around alongside him
Anyone with a bit of application would have done the trick. None of Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah or Zulfiqar Babar has a great record with the bat but they all have passable defensive techniques. And yet their reckless self-destruction cost Pakistan the 450-plus total that would have kept them in command of the match. To be bowled out with eight minutes remaining before the lunch break was a dereliction of duty.
Mushtaq Ahmed, Pakistan's spin bowling coach, blasted his lower order for giving it away so easily. "There was no plan as such for the tail but they played very poor cricket," he said. "It wasn't a smart cricket at all as you got to understand your role according to the situation, especially when the batsman [at the other end] is on 70 or 80. You've got to understand and play accordingly.
"We didn't bat well with our last five or six players. We really didn't understand the situation very smartly. Obviously the plan was to play positive cricket but we ended up with poor batting. To reflect positivity you got to play things smartly. I don't mind hitting the bad ball to boundary but you've got to choose the right ball."
England ensured they didn't squander the inroads made by their bowlers as Alastair Cook and Joe Root both defied Pakistan with contrasting half-centuries. It took 14 hours for Pakistan to extract Cook in Abu Dhabi but in Dubai he was trapped within a mere 214 balls as Mushtaq hinted at a well-laid plan to take him down. As many as six fielders were placed on the leg side; four in front of square and two behind, to turn one of Cook's strengths, the leg glance, into a weakness.
Zulfiqar had bowled 170 balls to Cook without success in Abu Dhabi, and his further 14 today even included an attempted sweep that struck the stumps but did not dislodge the bails. Shah, on the other hand, endured far fewer frustrations. He needed a bit of luck as Cook flicked him to leg-slip to be caught for 65, but there was planning behind the moment as well.
"You obviously got to make plans against good players," said Mushtaq. "We had a plan against him and you might have noticed that we kept fielders mostly on the leg-side and bowled in patterns to get him out. I am really happy with the way Yasir bowled despite having a little stiffness in his back. He started well. He landed the ball in the right areas and at a good speed as I saw him touch around 90 kph. He is not bowling bad balls and he's in a good rhythm as well."
England reached the close on 182 for 3, trailing by 196 runs but with Pakistan's spinners starting to find a bit of grip on the steadily wearing surface.
"At the moment we are equal at 50/50 chances," said Mushtaq. "But tomorrow the first session is the key and we have to take quick wickets and I am very much hopeful the pitch, with our spinners, will pay a huge role in it, especially when the rough opens up. We have nearly 200 runs to defend and it's not going to be easy for the new batsmen to play the spinners here well."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson