No Pakistan cricketer relishes their inability to play Tests in their own country, but Younis Khan, more than anyone, has made Dubai a beneficial second home. Ten of his 31 Test hundreds have come in the Gulf state, the latest against England in the second Test as Pakistan’s batsmen continued to pound them into the ground.
He fell for 118, swinging Adil Rashid lustily to leg whereupon Moeen Ali sprinted 25 yards to hold a skied top-edge behind the bowler. It was a rare moment of pleasure for England’s two spinners who had only two wickets to show for their efforts – both in the final slog – and who played second fiddle to England’s hard-pressed pace attack for long periods.
By the time Pakistan declared half-an-hour into the fourth afternoon, their lead was 490 – 132 runs added in the day – England’s requirement already comfortably in excess of the record 418 successfully pursued by West Indies against Australia in Antigua in 2003. Realistically, they had to bat for more than four-and-a-half sessions to salvage a draw and prevent Pakistan taking a 1-0 lead into the final Test.
In their favour, the pitch remained sedate, and Yasir Khan felt unwell and had skipped morning nets. It was a minor ailment, unconnected with the back injury that had kept him out of the first Test, but Yasir’s legspin was one of Pakistan’s chief weapons, especially with the left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar so far looking relatively innocuous.
Even allowing for Yasir’s dubious state of health, Pakistan’s caution in the first hour did seem slightly disproportionate. With a lead of 358 at start of play to sustain them – already more than England had ever chased down in the fourth innings – little could go awry. But there were two days remaining, not a semblance of rain around and Younis, with time on his hands, had a century on his mind.
So, too, did Misbah, but for the second time in the match he did not add to his overnight score. Perhaps he is not someone who leans happily into a bright, new day. He was already the oldest player to score two centuries in a Test but he was not about to enhance his own record. Anderson slipped in a slower ball and he slotted it straight to his rival captain, Alastair Cook, at mid-off.
England’s pace bowlers were a bit moody. On a slowing, wearing fourth-day pitch where they might have hoped the spinners would be all over Pakistan, they were still doing their stuff. Anderson had a tiny collision with Asad Shafiq and Stokes, his mood not helped by a tweaked ankle, was all Marmite temper, his savoury mood congealing over another blazing day. Appropriately so, as England were toast.
By the time he reached the 90s, Younis was settled enough to toy with the bowlers, goading Stuart Broad by changing his position at the crease. Splayed legged and square on, he worked Broad through square leg to 98 then cut Rashid to reach his century in the next over.
Misbah, sat on the dressing room balcony behind a pedestral fan seemed inclined to let Shafiq try for a century, too. A glove-carrier came out presumably with a message to tell him how much time he had but he was still 21 runs short when Moeen had him lbw, a review failing to save him. Misbah stretched, slowly rose and called them in.