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Mohammad Amir's fitness just one part of Pakistan's puzzle

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'I'm a human being, not a machine' - Amir (1:03)

Pakistan's Mohammad Amir explains why he's in favour of managing his workload as a bowler (1:03)

Who'd have thought it at the start of the third day, when cynical journalists were planning their trip to Malahide Castle or checking early flights home? The Kevin O'Brien-led fightback has turned what looked like being a rout into a tasty final-day contest. But while the result of this important Test is very much in the balance, win, lose or draw, Pakistan will leave Ireland with a few puzzles to ponder and questions to answer before they stride through the Long Room and out onto the Lord's outfield for the first of two Tests against England.

Amir's fitness (just get the correct knee)

The most scrutinised body part at Malahide from late on the third day was undoubtedly Mohammad Amir's knee. Once we had established which knee, that is. Originally, the official word was that it was the left knee requiring treatment for a chronic knee problem but, unless there was referred pain, the PCB soon confirmed it was the right. On television commentary it was described as patella tendinitis. Whatever it's called, it seemed to get worse.

Amir looked fine when he bowled, moved the ball dangerously and took wickets (including his 100th Test scalp), but in between overs he flexed his knee, gingerly tested it, left the field for periods and his limp became ever more pronounced. The first Test against England is just ten days away and Pakistan need their precious weapon locked and loaded.

There is growing discussion about his workload management and his durability across three formats. Pakistan want him leading the attack in Tests but this tour may be the one that forces a decision, one way or another. Not an easy one either, with a World Cup just one year away for the current Champions Trophy holders. The good news? It's only a two-Test series. The bad news? At times, Amir walked as though his right - yes, right - knee had been replaced by a meringue.

Pace-bowling depth

Amir's fitness is even more crucial when you consider the rest of Pakistan's fast bowling options. Mohammad Abbas has emerged as a genuine Test strike bowler with a remarkable economy rate. He's taken more wickets than Amir in the period since he received his cap and his economy rate is also superior. The Mohammads form a formidable new-ball partnership but the third seamer role is not so clear cut. When playing on spin-friendly pitches in the UAE, Pakistan often don't need three fast bowlers.

Other bowlers to have filled that role on tour in the past couple of years - Wahab Riaz, Imran Khan and Sohail Khan - were not wanted. Of the two men in the current squad, Hasan Ali has just two Tests to his name while Rahat Ali has hardly been convincing in Malahide. Perhaps that's partly to do with rustiness: he hadn't played a first-class match since December 2016 before this tour, which raises the question of what form - and in which format - was he selected on.

Pakistan may give Hasan a run in their warm-up match against Leicester, or rest Amir and set up a bowl-off with an appearance at Lord's the prize. One thing in Pakistan's favour is that Faheem Ashraf's bowling has emerged as an unexpected bonus - even if he can pull off a holding role, the rare presence of a seaming allrounder gives them more flexibility than they have had in quite some time.

Catch them if you can

It's hardly a new or earth-shattering observation that, at times, Pakistan's fielding leaves much to be desired. After enforcing the follow-on they held open the door and ushered Ireland back into the game by dropping both the openers and in the process denied Amir two wickets, something to which he has become wearily accustomed. While there have been some bright moments - think Faheem's direct hit to dismiss Ed Joyce - there have also been outfield fumbles that allowed the ball to trickle over the boundary rope, catches put down in the slips, a run-out gone begging and, most drearily, one ball fumbled twice.

But perhaps the most worrying aspect has been the three catches put down by Sarfraz Ahmed. One was a difficult chance, diving low to his left, but Pakistan fans won't want to be reminded of his predecessor, Kamran Akmal, who had a horror tour of England in 2006 and a forgettable one in 2010. Sarfraz's role as captain and the absence a back-up wicketkeeper in the Pakistan squad means his form with the gloves is of huge importance. It's worth noting that this will be Steve Rixon's final tour as Pakistan's fielding coach. The Australian's contract is coming to an end and, after successfully overseeing Pakistan's improvement in fifty-over fielding, he will want to leave the red ball fielding in safe... errr hands.

Top order wobbles

One of the most interesting match ups in the upcoming series against England is the battle of the tottery top orders. England's well chronicled search for an opening partner for Alastair Cook following Andrew Strauss' retirement and assorted other departures have led to a carousel of batsmen in recent years. Pakistan no longer have their press-up talismen Misbah-ul-haq and Younis Khan and their quest for an opening partnership that can withstand the Dukes ball on a cloudy English morning almost predates the one for the Holy Grail. Both sides lose their first three wickets before passing 100 approximately 60%of the time.

But consider this: the last time Pakistan had an opening partnership of more than one hundred runs in England was in the second Test of the 1996 series, when Aamer Sohail and Saeed Anwar put on 106 for the first wicket at The Oval. In the ensuing 22 years and 32 Test innings in Old Blighty, Pakistan's opening partnership has passed 35 on just four occasions. With so little experience in the top five, this would be an opportune moment for Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq to lead the way.

Running between the wickets

The first ball of this Test said it all. Bearing in mind the previous point, Pakistan's opening partnerships are fragile enough without the two batsmen haring off for a, frankly, bonkers single that ended with Imam-ul-Haq flat on his back after he tangled with Tyrone Kane and then slammed his head on Niall O'Brien's hip. So it's fair to assume his hip bone bruised Imam almost as much as the inevitable comparisons to Uncle Inzi. You'd think the lesson would have been learned by ball two but there were more hairy moments of misjudgment to come. Ireland were sometimes scrappy in the field which saved a few blushes and meant there were no run out dismissals on Pakistan's scorecard but a little calm will go a long way when the likes of Ben Stokes are prowling in the circle.