January 27 2012
A fascinating day in store with the loss of Morgan at stumps last night. England some 50 runs behind with Matt Prior as their last recognised batsman but a 'waggy' tail if it gets its eye in. Pakistan with Ajmaal, Hafeez and Rehman causing the English all kinds of problems but Gul with calf issues yesterday. The session up to lunch could set this match up for a great finish.... on the day I won't be here. Good Morning from Abu Dhabi
England v Pakistan @ Zayed Cricket Stadium Abu Dhabi Friday 27 January 2012
This city is quiet this morning (effectively a Saturday morning for them as their weekend does not include Sunday). The drive from my excellent hotel on the river (if you come here and like modern-ish hotels get a room at the ALoft near the Exhibition Centre) was almost solitary with the motorways very sparsely populated at 9 in the morning. The weather is also excellent for cricket; clear, bright and a nice temperature. Rehman and Ajmaal start for Pakistan against Bell on 5 and Prior new to the crease after the last ball dismissal of Morgan last night caught off the edge in the slips.
What an interesting first two overs we have!! The spinners are on the spot at once but the English are looking to go after them and Prior slog sweeps Ajmaal straight into Junaid's hands at deep backward square, then out of his hands and onto his knee and then the ground!! It really was a sitter. We just get over that one and Bell looks to put one over Rehman's head. The spinner does however get enough of a hand on it to make it a chance that he really ought to have held on to. Both men dropped before passing 10... is this an omen?
Well not really because as we hear Sir Geoffrey say on 5Live, neither man looks in control and the inevitable happens not long after when Prior is caught in front after review and leaves at 227 for 6 with 3 to his name and his country still 30 behind.
Broad and Bell move towards a first innings lead slowly (or not so slowly if you look down a couple of sentences) against Rehman who is still getting the ball to move away from the batsmen regularly. However the ball eventually stops being interesting and Pakistan take the new one in the 99th over. Gul is on to use it but the first ball is toe poked by a full swinging Broad for four to give England a 2 run lead. Hafeez is on for Rehman and Stuart seems to have accumulated 30 odd like lightning with 6 fours (it's just in comparison to yesterday's scoring rates I think).
Just after the first man in the tail has passed him, Bell is late on a shot and hit on the back leg by Gul. Not the tallest of men, the ball hits high on his leg but the review says it is an 'Umpire's Call' and the ball would have clipped the top of the bails. As the "ump" orignially gave him out, he is on his way for 29 at 268. The umpires have been right on the money for most of this Test. In comes Mr Swann and the tail looks to keep the score ticking with Stuart leading the way and Greame adding his own individuality. They push the score to 298 before Rehman gets Swanny to miss one and he goes for a 15 ball 15 but the 300 looks on.
Anderson arrives and helps Broad to a confident and well crafted 50 off 52 balls with 6 fours and 1 six. They also pass the 300 and at lunch we see two English batsman who look like they are having a good time with 323 on the board. Stuart Broad has 58 and the last wicket has added 32 in the last half hour.
Hafeez needs only one over after lunch to start Pakistan's second innings. After hitting a four off the first ball, Jimmy Anderson is comprehensively tucked up and bowled and Monty misses one and is caught plumb in front. Broad does not face, he finishes on an excellent 58 not out and England take a 70 run lead into the second phase finishing on 327 all out.
At 12:57 Hafeez has changed into his opening batsmen outfit and is on his way out with Umar to face the might of English cricket for the second time in this game. Taufeeq takes the first over and is nearly sent on his way by Anderson with ball 1. Both batsmen survive the first 6 from the English opening pair (Broad takes the second over).
Everything is going along nicelyfor the sub continentals until we introduce our spin twins. Monty Panesar removes Hafeez LBW, a decision that is not reviewed and probably should have been and then Swann gets past Taufeeq's defence to break the stumps and Pakistan find themselves at 29 for 2. Two new batsmen, Azhar and Younus, at the crease and the game is well and truly on.
Monty strikes again quite soon when he draws Younus across his stumps before making the ball go away from him to take the corner of the wicket and it is 36 for 3. This brings the Pakistani hero of the first innings to the crease as Misbah strides out but runs are as rare as rocking horse droppings and the 50, let alone the lead seems a long way away. With about half an hour to go until Tea, the score is 44 for 3.
The Tea interval comes with relief for the Pakistan press contingent but it does seem that the batsmen in the middle feel that they have weathered the storm after failing to score for almost 6 overs in one part of the afternoon session. They come in at 54 for 3, still 16 runs behind.
The support is flying in for Pakistan as the UAE 'Saturday' goes on (they start early and finish early here) and the "Pakistan Hill" is filling up as quickly as their sides wickets fall!! 5 balls after the resumption, Monty strikes and sends the captain back after a review LBW for 12 - there was a doubt about whether it was bat first but the replay showed that he hit his pad and he was adjacent and his side move to 54 for 4.
One 'hill' which now has a queue waiting to enter it.
And the other side.......
Azhhar and Shafiq settle in as the pro Pakistan atmosphere of the ground increases with every minute (there must have been 2 to 3000 fans who have entered the ground in the last hour and few, if any, are non Pakistani). The score has moved on but very slowly and in the 40th over the lead finally changes hands.
Then as so often happens, the game goes into a lull as the spinners find it harder to keep the momentum going and Strauss finds his other bowlers don't have the same effect. He keeps spin on at the Pavilion end but re-introduces Broad at the Flats end (now very full of Pakistan supporters). The young Asian batsmen are taking no chances and simply working the ball about while moving 30 ahead to 100 for 4. It's the time when England have to keep focussed until something happens, which it will if they stick to it.
But it will not happen on Day 3 as a 71 run partnership between these two young men sees Pakistan to the end. They leave the field to generous applause from the crowd after an absorbing day on 125 for 4.
With that also ends my involvement in the Second Test as work beckons tomorrow morning and its a late flight back to the land of the Sultan for me. I will be doing the first day of the Third Test In sh'Allah next Friday. Good game this.... if England break tomorrow morning then it's a fair bet that they could take this one. If they don't it is going to be a very shaky chase should Pakistan post anything in the 200 run area.