The coin is tossed towards the sky, Misbah-ul-Haq and Alastair Cook stand and watch as the Old Trafford crowd filters in. Misbah hasn't lost a toss against Cook in a Test match. But this one he does.
The match hasn't started yet, but it already isn't like Lord's.
It's pitched up and swinging, it just feels like a good ball even before it reaches Cook, like it has something special about it. It's the sixth ball of the first over and it finds Cook's edge and sails towards the cordon. But it doesn't find a hand. It isn't flung up in the air, it just disappears through gap and ends up at the boundary. Mohammad Amir has produced a very good ball, but it didn't get the wicket, it isn't even that close a call.
Amir could have dismissed Cook twice before he actually took him at Lord's, here there are no chances at all.
The ball doesn't swing much for Amir or Rahat Ali, there is no killer reverse for Wahab Riaz, and Yasir Shah can't land them. All they can really rely on is English mistakes or hope for something special. But their wizard skills don't work. Yasir doesn't land one killer wrong'un, Wahab never gets one to jump up into a glove, Rahat doesn't tempt anyone with a juicy floater and Amir produces nothing to excite the world on Vine.
Instead, two of the best batsmen in cricket play straight, play patient. They rotate the strike, their game plans are different, but as a partnership they look perfect for each other, one stretching the opposition's skill, the other their patience. They wait for Pakistan to make slight errors and they cash in on them. They get a lot of errors. The Pakistan quicks can't help but give away one ball an over that releases the pressure. And Yasir, well, he just isn't himself.
If Lord's was him in excelsis, Old Trafford was him in exasperation. Why was the ball not coming out of his hand? Why could he not find a breakthrough? Why could he not stop runs? What had happened to that guy with all that talent, to his perfect deliveries, his repeatable action? It was all gone, and it had been replaced by a nervous guy who looked like the world's No. 1 Test bowler, but bowled like just an ordinary man.
At Lord's the score was 8 for 1 when Root joined Cook, and for the next hundred runs, with some help from poor Pakistan fielding, they started to take the game away. Then Yasir bowled a decent ball and Root tried to hit it into the temple across the road, and was out. England were always behind in the game from then on in, and Root and Cook didn't bat together in the second innings. That mistake, that rush of blood, that chance, never came at Old Trafford.
Watching your opponent bat for pretty much two full days should, and does, mess with teams. But part of playing cricket in the UAE is long days in the field. And one day in the field in the UAE is like 17 in most countries. And this isn't an inexperienced cricket team. Pakistan are the third-ranked team in Tests, even despite the odd innings against them that wouldn't end.
"Had Misbah decided to send out a hand-drawn picture of a batsman instead of Rahat, it would have had as much chance of surviving until stumps"
But here it did affect them. The pitch didn't do anything, the ball didn't swing, the ball didn't really spin, the England bowlers were good, but not fantastic, and there was no reason other than poor cricket and mental fatigue for Pakistan to lose wickets. And there was no reason, at all, to lose them so quickly or tamely. But they did. The panic was on before Azhar Ali scooped a ball back to Chris Woakes, and it got worse when Younis Khan's dancing-goat-on-a-trampoline batting was finished.
And then Rahat came in as nightwatchman. By this point it was dark, the Pakistan top order only had left Shan Masood's poor Test technique and family connections, England were collecting wickets for fun, and Pakistan sent out their undeniably worst batsmen to stop the carnage. Had Misbah decided to send out a hand-drawn picture of a batsman instead of Rahat, it would have had as much chance of surviving until stumps.
Rahat's first action was a cut to a ball that no one who could understand either the basic job of a nightwatchman or of being batsman, would have tried. He blocked the ball with all the authority of a three-year-old giving a handshake, his feet seemed untrained by cricket coaching, he flung his bat at the ball like he was trying to score the match-winning runs off the last delivery of the innings, and then he knocked a short ball straight up in the air.
At Lord's, when Rahat went out as nightwatchman, he was equally useless. It just didn't matter as much. It came after Misbah had made a quality century, Pakistan had controlled the day, and he was out so late on that his wicket caused stumps to be called. As Misbah left the field he just laughed at Rahat. This time it mattered far more, and now Misbah wasn't laughing, he was going out on the field to try to stop the rot himself.
Asad Shafiq has looked like a quality Test-match batsman in every single innings in this series. He has the technique, the patience and the intelligence to average far more than he does in Test cricket. But with his side needing a hundred, or probably 150, or maybe 200, he sliced a cutter from Stuart Broad to point. On this sort of batting wicket a player of his quality should only be removed from it with a cannon. Instead he lazily wafted and was gone.
Sarfraz Ahmed is capable of the sort of innings that change matches with his energy, timing and belief. And to be the sort of batsman who is scoring at more than a run a ball when your team is six wickets down and over 500 runs behind means you need to believe in yourself in a religious fanatic way. But what Sarfraz needed to do was just contain himself to 80% Sarfraz. Instead as it often is, it was the full Sarfraz, including a silly dismissal after he was well on top.
And then it was Misbah, who must have felt like the only sane man in the asylum. He had coasted to 50 like the pitch was actually really good for batting and they should have put on well over 400. Instead, he was out to a spinner that he wanted to completely dominate, but has actually just started to donate wickets too.
Pakistan didn't really have a top order at Lord's, just these three guys in the middle playing some fine cricket. At Old Trafford, they didn't do enough of it.
Yasir's first ball in the second innings doesn't come out of his hand properly. It barely comes out at all. At Lord's a ball like this would have been a surprise, an aberration, here it was the norm. It plonked halfway down the wicket like a dead pigeon and was treated with a cross-bat slap back past him by Alex Hales. A few balls later Yasir bowls even shorter, even uglier, it's as if every legspinner in village cricket has somehow possessed him.
The last ball of the over is short, wide and terrible again, this time Hales can only mistime it to point, but to finish the horrid over Shafiq misfields the ball.
The next day, Rahat dropped short to Root, he pulled it away, in the air, and straight to where deep backward square should have been standing. Instead Masood had got lost, and rather than being on the boundary, he was in the general area of the boundary, and this shot from Root landed over his head, but inside the boundary.
At Lord's Root was out caught at deep backward square, at Lord's Yasir was all over the England batsmen. Instead it was a bad situation, with bad cricket, executed badly, and a bad outcome.
Misbah had been in good form in both innings. He looked in control of his game, and other than a knock on the helmet, the suggestions he couldn't handle pace bowling in England seem pretty unjustified. There was no reason he couldn't have put on a big score, and at the very least given his team something. He was also batting with Shafiq, so if there was ever going to be an impossible partnership to draw the game, this was the least improbable.
But then Woakes bowled a loopy wide full ball that swung away, and Misbah saw it late, and played it later. It was the sort of ball that shouldn't take out a batsman of this quality on any day, but on a day when he was trying to save the game, and had his last chance of doing so, it hurt more. Here was the man who masterminded Pakistan's win last week, with bat and in the field, going out to the sort of ball he has been hitting through the covers for about 40 years.
At Lord's Misbah walked off smiling and laughing. Here he shook his head at the crease, he shook his head as he left the square, he shook his head as he watched the big screen, and he shook his head as he left the ground.
Wahab was caught Cook, bowled Root. Just getting back together to finish what they started. Not long after the last wicket was taken, Amir was out and it was over.
Last time the match ended and Amir went on a victory lap of Lord's, his team-mates followed him, and then they stopped to do a grand celebration. This time Amir walked slowly, head bowed, across Old Trafford. Like almost everything else in this match, this was nothing like Lord's.