Sharjah: England’s bowlers produced an excellent all-round display to dismiss Pakistan inside the first day in Sharjah, having been put into the field for the third time in the series. James Anderson and Stuart Broad were outstanding, collecting immaculate figures of 6 for 30 between them, and there was also a surprise starring role for Samit Patel, playing his first Test in three years.Misbah-ul-Haq, batting in the debonair fashion that has characterised his series, did his best to thwart England once again with a composed 71, his fourth 50-plus score in a row. That was the difference between Pakistan being routed and posting a total that could yet keep them in a low-scoring game. England will be buoyed by the knowledge that the side batting second has won the last two Tests in Sharjah but they will also know that, unless they produce a significant first innings, they will have to bat last on a surface that spun from the outset.
Pakistan’s last five wickets fell for 38, as Anderson and Broad rounded up the innings with the second new ball. England were clearly in the ascendency after knocking over the top half of the innings a little beyond the halfway stage of the day but Misbah, in his inimitable block-block-bash style, and Sarfraz Ahmed forced them back during a stand of 80 in 26 overs.Alastair Cook and Moeen Ali then negotiated an over apiece before the close, Moeen slog-sweeping Yasir Shah for a boundary to end the day with a statement that England are intent on levelling the series at the last.
If the excellence of Anderson and Broad was to be expected, the contribution of Patel, selected as part of a three-man spin attack, was not. Patel bowled more overs than anyone else, picked up two wickets and took a catch. It was about as surprising as seeing an English country pub, with logs on the fire and pork scratchings behind the bar, nestled in among the glass, steel and sand of the UAE.The surface at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium had recently been relaid and it proved to be a conundrum for all involved. Pakistan had decided the conditions did not warrant a third spinner, with Misbah venturing at the toss that it “might not turn”; Cook was more convinced after England had played their two warm-up matches on the same ground.The early evidence was that the pitch was markedly more receptive to spin than either Abu Dhabi or Dubai but, counterintuitively, it was England’s seamers who had greater success. Perhaps, to invert one of Shane Warne’s dictums, “if it spins it seams”. Either way, Pakistan were left in a quandary of their own at 116 for 5, by far the weakest first-innings foundation in the series so far.
They were rescued, somewhat, by Misbah and Sarfraz. Neither was afraid to hit the ball in the air but nothing went to hand until Sarfraz picked out deep midwicket just as England were beginning to feel frustrated.A chance, if you could call it that, had gone the way of Ben Stokes a few overs before, only to leave him lying in obvious pain after apparently dislocating his shoulder. Sarfraz, on 36, slapped a Patel full toss behind square, seemingly past Stokes at short fine leg – only for him to fly Trent Bridge-style, almost perpendicular, and get his left hand on the ball. He could not hold it, however, and in tumbling to the ground Stokes jarred his right shoulder into the turf; after several minutes of treatment, he was led from the field by two of the England medical team with his right arm in a makeshift sling.
England had removed both Pakistan openers, Azhar Ali and Mohammad Hafeez, before lunch but rather than steel themselves for an afternoon of toil – as had been their fate in the first two Tests – greater rewards were quickly forthcoming.
Shoaib Malik, having displaced Azhar from his favoured spot at No. 3, might have felt he needed another significant score after following up 245 in the first Test in Abu Dhabi with 0, 2 and 7. He overturned an lbw decision against him on 22, off the bowling of Moeen Ali, but was dismissed shortly after lunch for 38, pushing leadenly at Stuart Broad.
Broad’s initial three-over spell with the new ball had been tight but his parsimony reached new heights as he sent down five consecutive maidens in a spell full of guile and variation. He had figures of 8-7-1-1, having strung together 40 deliveries without conceding a run off the bat, as Misbah decided the safest method was to block him out of the attack.
Between them, Broad and Anderson delivered eight maidens out of nine. The tourniquet was pulled so tightly that when Anderson served up a leg-stump full toss, the normally unflappable Younis Khan missed it to be lbw, even wasting a review only to find it was hitting flush. Asad Shafiq, with three half-centuries in his four previous innings, then paid for his own inertia when nicking behind having scored 5 off 35 balls.
The bowler who dismissed was a surprise in more ways than one. Patel might have been expecting to carry the drinks but, after coming into the side for his first Test in almost three years, he was called on to bowl inside the first hour and shouldered the heaviest workload. By contrast, on his previous Test appearance, in Kolkata in 2012, he had been required to send down a solitary over.
The identity of England’s first wicket-taker was easier to predict. Pakistan had deployed a new opening combination, after recalling Azhar for Shan Masood, but Anderson was equally effective against the new man. Azhar, in an unfamiliar berth due to Malik’s presence at No. 3, felt for a delivery outside off and feathered through to Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler’s replacement behind the stumps.
Patel was brought into the attack early, perhaps to give him a feel for the contest, but he was left needing treatment after just two deliveries. An apparent dislocation to the little finger on his bowling hand necessitated some tape from the physio but he was able to continue. Coincidentally, Patel owed his place in the touring party to a far worse dislocation suffered by Zafar Ansari on the day the squad was announced in September.
Pakistan attempted to put the hurt on Moeen, too, but after conceding 17 runs from his first 16 deliveries, he had Mohammad Hafeez taken at backward square leg on 27, via an ungainly top-edged hoick. Moeen thought he had two in two overs when he spun the ball past Malik’s inside edge into the front pad but Chris Gaffaney’s lbw decision was overturned, with Hawk-Eye suggesting the delivery had turned too much and would have missed leg stump.
In between times, Patel twice got the ball to grip and turn past the bat of Younis, suggesting England’s three-spinner theory was sound. Still, Pakistan have had no shortage of success against England’s slow bowlers in the series and Younis swept, cut and drove as often as he hopped, fenced and prodded. From 23 for 1 after 14 overs, the run rate rose during the second hour as Pakistan attempted to hit their way out of difficulty.
The morning had begun with Cook calling incorrectly for the third time in a row and Misbah duly condemned England’s bowlers to another day in the field by choosing to bat. Misbah gave Cook a consoling pat on the back, Pakistan’s UAE magic seeming to border on sorcery, but it turned out England had several decent spells up their sleeve.