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Cricket

Spinners strike thrice as Pakistan close in



Lunch England 242 (Root 88, Wahab 4-66, Yasir 4-93) and 187 for 6 (Stokes 9*, Rashid 8*) need 304 runs to beat Pakistan 378 (Misbah 102, Shafiq 83, Younis 58, Masood 54, Wood 3-39, Moeen 3-108) and 354 for 6 dec (Younis 118, Misbah 87, Shafiq 79)
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details


Yasir Shah had Jos Buttler taken at slip with a beautifully flighted legbreak Gareth Copley / © Getty Images

Pakistan moved inexorably towards victory in the second Test in Dubai as they took three pre-lunch wickets in a torrid session for England in which the spin bowlers, Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Babar, held sway on an increasingly challenging final-day surface.

Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler all succumbed by the interval and, although Ben Stokes battled against his natural instincts to reach the interval, making 9 from 57 balls, it was a draining learning experience as he survived by the skin of his teeth in what for him were alien conditions. England, at 187 for 6, added only 57 runs in the session as the pressure from Pakistan’s spinners was unrelenting.

The history of the past 10 years told that survival was not statistically impossible. For England to bat out the final day would stand alongside the most outstanding resistance efforts of the past decade: 148 overs by South Africa against Australia in Adelaide in 2013, a backs-to-the-wall effort led by Faf du Plessis, or England’s own 143 overs batting against New Zealand in Auckland a year earlier when Matt Prior’s defiant hundred did the job.

This, though, was a more unrealistic proposition. England’s lower-middle order was replete with shotmakers, untutored in the sort of sharply-turning conditions they had to confront on the final day. The turn and bounce that had been so reluctant to show itself on the fourth evening was available in abundance. From the moment that Root departed, it felt like a matter of time.

Misbah-ul-Haq began with the pace of Wahab Riaz and left-arm orthodox of Zulfiqar, keeping Yasir in reserve awhile, communicating to Zulfiqar perhaps that he also had a central role to play. For 50 minutes, the Yorkshire pair of Root and Bairstow defended stoutly, Root relaxing into the day, Bairstow holding himself stiffly as he stole the occasional run, not just his mind locked in concentration but his neck and shoulders too.

Then Zulfiqar dislodged Root and the anticipation in Pakistan’s ranks immediately soared. He had already spun one past the outside edge; the second time he deceived Root, the edge came and Younis Khan pouched a good low catch at slip.

Bairstow followed five overs later, the impression being that a discussion with Misbah helped to unlock the door. Yasir has bowled only the occasional googly in this Test, but when he gave it an airing, a full-length delivery deceived Bairstow in the air and he was bowled through the gate as he was suckered into a leg-side flick.

Most engrossing viewing came with Stokes’ torrid time against the turning ball. Sky TV commentators, able to hear the stump mic, let slip that Pakistan’s close fielders were chattering happily about The Angry Man, and the Angry Man was under severe pressure. His first ball, from Yasir, flew safely into the leg side off an inside edge, catches claimed by the keeper or leg slip proved to have come off the pad, and Asad Shafiq narrowly failed to rescue a short leg catch off Yasir when Stokes had only a single to his name.

Twice, he might also have been stumped off Zulfiqar, not that the wicketkeeper, Sarfraz Ahmed was culpable, especially on the second occasion when the ball grubbed past Stokes’ outside edge and thudded into his bootlaces.

For Buttler, there was another failure, one that could interrupt his Test career in the final Test in Sharjah as England seek to regroup. At least he fell to an excellent delivery as Yasir made one turn and bounce from a challenging length and Younis stooped for his fourth slip catch of the innings, his offerings so plentiful that he might have been picking strawberries in the desert air.

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps


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ESPN Sports Media Ltd.







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