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At Dubai, February 3-6, 2012. Pakistan won by 71 runs. Toss: Pakistan.
It seemed appropriate that the Third Test, which produced Pakistan's first clean sweep over England, should end on a referred lbw decision. The DRS, and the way it was implemented by the officials, had been a leitmotif of the Tests - so much so that the demise of Panesar was the 43rd lbw in all, an unprecedented number in a three-match series. His forlorn decision to ask for a referral felt like an afterthought, which seemed about right: for the final three days of this game, England had been decidedly off the pace.
Played, like the First Test, at the near-deserted Dubai Sports City Stadium, this one outdid even the previous two for unpredictability. England were left to wonder how they could have dismissed Pakistan for99 on the first day and still lose. Only twice before - in the Ashes-spawning Oval Test of 1882, and South Africa's first win, at the Old Wanderers in 1905-06 - had they suffered defeat after bowling out a team in their first innings in double figures.
There were two simple reasons for the result. England, their brains now well and truly scrambled by Pakistani spin, mustered only 141 in their reply, when conditions for batting were at their best; and they were unable to separate Azhar Ali and Younis Khan during a second-innings stand of 216 that seemed to mock the loss of 22 wickets for 268 which preceded it. Azhar and Younis might have been playing a different game.
At lunch on the first day, however, which Pakistan took shortly after slipping to 44 for seven, it looked as if England would finish with a consolation win. Led by the excellent Broad, who bowled with Glenn McGrath-like accuracy and hostility for four wickets, they allowed only Asad Shafiq to settle. At the time, his mature 45 out of an eventual total of 99 felt like a futile lone hand. But by the end of the day, with England listing once more at 104 for six, Shafiq's innings was assuming match-winning proportions.
The opening skirmishes were not a triumph for Simon Taufel. Long regarded as one of the best umpires in the world, he saw three of his decisions overturned by the DRS on his first day in the series. While 16 wickets were tumbling, seven of them to spin, it felt as if the old tradition of giving the batsman the benefit of the doubt - a tacit understanding, admittedly, rather than a Law - was being confined to history.
Pietersen certainly thought so. His problems with the spinners had - despite his denials -almost certainly been exacerbated by his concerns about the DRS, and now Taufel adjudged him leg-before to Abdur Rehman when technology showed the ball was barely clipping leg stump. Even the fact that he had fallen once more to a left-arm spinner, for the 22nd time in Tests, was overshadowed by his evident displeasure at the decision. If Pietersen felt it was guesswork, Taufel had been technically vindicated - although Pietersen claimed he later received an apology from the umpire, himself believed to be no great fan of the DRS. The episode did little to dissuade those who thought the technology risked turning batting, especially on slow pitches, into something of a lottery.
Now, finally, the series was to see a demonstration of proper Test batting, a display of how to nullify spin - and with it the DRS - by using bat rather than pad, both in defence and attack. Suddenly the pace and nature of the game changed perceptibly as Younis, the old master, joined Azhar, who had made only 94 skittish runs in his previous four innings. As if in defiance of this,he now demonstrated infinite patience and application, compiling a monumental 157 off 442 balls in seven minutes short of nine hours.
Younis complemented Azhar's substance with his own elegant style, putting together his 20th Test hundred, after a quiet series. When they were finally parted, Pakistan had gone a considerable way towards completing the whitewash. Their total of 365 left England a target of 324, a damning 132 more than they had managed in four of their five innings thus far.
What followed at least regained a modicum of respectability, as Strauss and Cook began with 48 before Strauss played back to Abdur Rehman. Then Saeed Ajmal struck three times either side of lunch on the fourth day, his victims including Cook, who had been becalmed during a four-hour 49, but became the second-youngest batsman, at 27 years 43 days, to reach 6,000 Test runs; only Sachin Tendulkar (26 years 313 days) had got there earlier.
Then Umar Gul took over, claiming four in 30 deliveries - including the hapless Bell, who slapped a long-hop straight to cover - before Ajmal and Rehman finished things off to end the series with 43 wickets between them. Throw in five for Mohammad Hafeez, and Pakistan's spinners had claimed 48, a national record in any Test series, and only two short of the three-Test record of 50 shared by India and Sri Lanka, both against New Zealand, in 1976-77 and 1997-98 respectively.
While Strauss had arrived talking of Asia as England's final frontier, and left with it resolutely unconquered, Misbah-ul-Haq spoke of a "dream come". After all that Pakistan cricket had gone through, only the most cold-hearted Englishman could begrudge them their triumph.
Man of the Match: Azhar Ali. Man of the Series: Saeed Ajmal.
Close of play: first day, England 104-6 (Strauss 41, Anderson 3); second day, Pakistan 222-2 (Azhar Ali 75, Younis Khan 115); third day, England 36-0 (Strauss 19, Cook 15).