A steaming 90 minutes in the hands of Wahab Riaz and Yasir Shah was reminiscent of the rich history of Pakistan cricket with a fast bowler and legspinner working in unison to wreak havoc. It was an evocative sight in Dubai as Pakistan rattled England’s batsmen, inspiring in them awe and fear.
The thrill of the Wahab-Yasir combination was a peep into history, recalling Imran Khan-Abdul Qadir, Wasim Akram-Mushtaq Ahmed, Shoaib Akhtar-Danish Kaneria. It brought back memories alive as both fought, and narrowly failed, to take five wickets.
Wahab bowled five terrific maiden overs, three with a wicket, conceding only 15 runs while Yasir’s attack was initially less threatening, giving away 34 runs with one wicket. Such a lengthy spell by Wahab was unusual; he is chiefly used for attack. He withdrew after nine overs, missing out on his second five-for, last taken on his debut during an infamous tour to England in 2010.
“When I got a good start I felt that I can get more wickets and that is why I prolonged my spell and that was my own decision,” Wahab said. “In cricket when you bowl well you get wickets, even the bad balls sometimes. I pushed myself hard.
“Obviously that was one of my best spells. If I could have got a five-for it would have been a very special one but it’s still good because it helped my team.”
Pakistan took a 136-run lead on first innings and by the close of the third day had extended that to 358 with seven wickets intact.
In general it was expected that the left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar would pair up with Yasir but that did not materialise. Babar looked off-colour and is already averaging over 50 this year. The Yasir-Zulfi combo was meant to supersede Saeed Ajmal-Abdur Rehman but the pair have yet to make an impact. That led to a change of plan allowing Yasir and Wahab to get in on the act.
“I think Yasir has done well in the past few Tests and he is our main weapon,” Wahab said. “Babar and Imran [Khan] also give me an edge, in a sense that they keep up the pressure which allows me to attack. I might leak many runs but with them around I feel comfortable.
“But I enjoy bowling with Yasir and the expectation was that we would both get wickets from both ends and we knew we had to wrap them up soon to get an important lead.
“I think Yasir will be the key player tomorrow because there is good spin on the pitch and if we have the kind of score which we are looking for so England will be under pressure. It’s not easy to play spin here and we fast bowlers will also play our part.
Pakistan’s head coach Waqar Younis had an extra session with the bowlers before start of play in the search for an immediate impact. For England, Root had stood his ground to be 76 at start of play; his wicket was the main hunt of the morning. “Root’s wicket was important as he is the one who plays freely and doesn’t take pressure,” Wahab said. “We knew where to dry up his runs, we did that and got him out which was a crucial wicket.
“It is my role to lead the attack. That’s my responsibility and every day and in every spell I want to produce my best because my team has expectations of me and I want to fulfil those. My energy is always there.”
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent. @kalson
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