England are probably just slightly ahead of the game having taken seven Pakistan wickets on day one of the second test in Abu Dhabi as the hosts closed on 256.
In all honesty it was a great day of hard fought test cricket; a day when both sides showed their mettle.
There were moments of brilliance from a number of the England bowlers and similar moments from Pakistan’s batsmen. It was a day that has set up the remaining four days of the test match brilliantly, as long as England bat well when they get their chance tomorrow.
With Chris Tremlett ruled out before play began due to a recurrence of the back injury that put him out of the India test series last year, Monty Panesar was named in the side to play his first test since the opening Ashes game of 2009 in Cardiff in England’s only change to the team that got beaten by 10 wickets in Dubai less than a week ago.
But it was Graeme Swann who got the first break through with a masterful piece of spin bowling. The over before he got Taufeeq Umar, he got one to rag sharply to go past his outside edge. The next over he bowled the same ball but this one went on with the arm. Umar, expecting turn, shouldered arms, and the ball careered in to his off-stump.
Panesar then struck just before lunch. Having dropped Mohammed Hafeez off his own bowling the ball before, he got one to shoot through his defences to leave honours very much even at 73 for two at lunch.
Then Stuart Broad came to the fore. In the first hour of the second session he really hit his straps and got the ball to jag both ways off the seam. But it was the in-ducker that caused most of the problems.
Just as Younis Khan was looking dangerous, the ball nipped in sharply off the seam to send his off-stump cartwheeling. Broad reproduced that delivery shortly after, again seaming one in to clatter Azhar Ali’s off-stump as Pakistan were reduced to 104 for four.
Captain Misbah Ul-Haq and Asad Shafiq then looked to rebuild for the hosts. Shafiq played fluently under pressure to hit 58 in a 100 run partnership with his skipper before going LBW to Swann.
Misbah was more watchful. Despite dispatching Panesar for three sixes, including two in consecutive deliveries at the start of his innings, Misbah played your textbook captains innings, digging in as his side lost wickets at regular intervals. Unbeaten on 83 over night, he is without doubt the danger man tomorrow morning. If England can get him early, they will give themselves a great chance of getting a first-innings lead.
Swann, a real genius when bowling to left-handers, then got one to turn sharply to Rehman that clipped the top of his off-stump just after Broad had trapped Adnan Akmal LBW for nine.
At 256 for seven all is to play for tomorrow morning. If England don’t get Misbah early, he is good enough to help Pakistan get closer to 350, which would be a daunting total for England to compete with.
The main concern for England though, will be the fact that it turned sharply on day one. Saeed Ajmal took 10 wickets last week on a pitch that hardly offered any turn. England will need their batsmen to come good if they want to stop that happening again.