With a commendable performance on the penultimate day, Pakistan achieved giant strides in sealing a victory against England in the 2nd Test at Dubai. Resuming play on the fourth day at 222/3, the Pakistani batsmen piled on the agony on the visiting bowlers as Younus Khan reached his 31st Test century.
Misbah-ul-Haq decided to set a daunting total for the tourists and declared their second innings only after reaching 354/6, thus setting up an improbable target of 491 for the visitors. With the more realistic target of surviving more than 140 overs in mind, England have slumped to 130/3 at stumps on Day 4. The onus is on Yorkshire-man Joe Root to mount a challenge on the final day.
Earlier, Misbah was dismissed while attempting a drive off a loopy delivery from James Anderson. The Pakistan skipper who had scored 102 in the 1st innings had to trudge back to the pavilion with only 13 runs from another ton.
However, veteran Younus Khan carried on compiling the runs on a gentle surface against a harmless bowling attack. He combined with Asad Shafiq to put on 113 for the 5th wicket. After reaching triple-figures, he ran out of patience and provided a much-need respite for Adil Rashid who was treated with disdain by the Pakistani batsmen.
Once Shafiq’s fluent knock was ended by a sliding off-spinner from Moeen Ali, Pakistan declared and set an improbable target for England. The bowlers provided the early breakthrough for Misbah by sending back Ali who tried to assert himself on the opposition.
In the vital moment of the day’s play, Captain Cook departed when he employed the sweep shot off Yasir Shah. The 30-year old who had scored a mammoth 263 in the previous Test at Abu Dhabi, could not offer a solid start to his team.
But, the talismanic Joe Root joined the experienced Ian Bell in a bid to resurrect the England innings. Both Root and Bell batted with resolve and frustrated the Pakistan bowlers as they completed the hundred partnership.
When it seemed that England would finish the day without any further damage, Ian Bell was outfoxed by the guile of Zulfiqar Babar. While trying to drop his hands and leave the delivery, the extra bounce on the ball accounted for Bell. Even though they were denied by Bruce Oxenford, Sarfaraz Ahmed convinced his leader to use the DRS. Eventually, the decision was overturned.
If England have any chance to enter into Sharjah for the final Test with the score-line still intact, Joe Root has to build significant partnerships with the likes of Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler.