Despite England dominating the first two sessions of the day, Pakistan showed some serious fight to bring themselves back in to the game late on day two.
Saeed Ajmal, as predicted, played a huge part for the hosts, who, up until the final session, were having a frustrating day. Crucially though, they ended it in the ascendency as England finished on 207 for five, still 50 runs behind Pakistan’s first innings total.
It has been two days of test cricket at it’s absolute best; both teams desperate for a win, and both teams showing enough character to merit that prize.
The bare facts suggest tomorrow will be a critical day; one that could determine the outcome of the test and more importantly the test series.
For the most part of today, England well and truly dominated proceedings. The dangerous Misbah Ul-Haq was removed in the first over of the morning by the pick of the bowlers Stuart Broad, who ended with figures of four for 47, before James Anderson picked up two deserved wickets in the second over of the day as Pakistan could only add one solitary run to their over night score.
Now came England’s turn. Would they be able to cope with the might of Ajmal and Mohammed Hafeez? Well for two sessions they coped just fine.
Andrew Strauss came and went for just 11 as he continued his slump in form, inside edging on to his pad before Shafiq took a comfortable catch close in. But it was Alistair Cook and Jonathan Trott that steadied the ship.
Cook and Trott were probably England’s two best bets for runs in the Abu Dhabi conditions. Both have the mental toughness to bat for long periods as they proved in abundance last year and both like to score big runs.
And so it proved. Ajmal was still a menace, up to his usual tricks, and Hafeez also caused problems, but they both plodded along. There were no fireworks, oh no, but there was a huge amount of calm in the middle; something that England were unable to provide throughout the entirety of the first test.
They batted until lunch at their own speed. Run machine Cook went to 50 first before the ever-obdurate Trott followed soon after.
With England going well on 165 for one, Trott, well placed on 74, played down the wrong line from a floated Hafeez delivery, which spun slightly and clipped the top of his off-stump. Trott will no doubt be disappointed as he really had done all of the hard work and this was the beginning of England’s decline.
With that wicket, it always seemed likely that more would follow. Unfortunately for England it was Cook that went next. Not picking Ajmal’s doosra, he was hit on the pad in front of all three and was rightly given out six runs short of what would’ve been arguably his finest contribution for his country. It was not to be.
Kevin Pietersen was next to go, proving once more his incompetence against the turning ball. An inside edge on to his pad sent up a dolly to first slip Hafeez.
And then, with the final ball of the day, Ajmal accounted for Eoin Morgan who prodded at one a long way outside his off-stump, edging to Hafeez who snaffled it at first slip. Ajmal ending the day with three for 67 – there will be more to follow tomorrow.
The key for England will be getting past Pakistan’s total, and hopefully pushing on to in excess of 300. With Ian Bell at the crease alongside Matt Prior – both very capable in these conditions – it will be another fascinating day that is for sure.