Azhar and Shafiq frustrate England
Monty Panesar and Stuart Broad put England in a position of superiority on the third day of the second Test, but strong resistance from Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq helped Pakistan fight back at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Panesar removed Mohammad Hafeez and Younus Khan, either side of Graeme Swann snaring Taufeeq Umar, before returning after tea to trap dangerman Misbah-ul-Haq in front for 12 to reduce Pakistan to 54 for four, still 16 runs adrift.
However, with Pakistan in trouble, an impressive unbroken fifth-wicket partnership of 71 from Azhar, who made 46 not out, and Shafiq frustrated the tourists.
The stand consisted of excellent patience and concentration on the spin-assisted surface to help the designated home side bounce back and extend their lead to 55 in a score of 125 for four at the close.
This morning England were reliant on Broad’s counter-attacking 58 from 62 balls as they added 120 to their overnight 207 for five, despite Saeed Ajmal claiming figures of 4-108 from 40 overs.
The tourists almost experienced a double setback inside the first three full overs of the day as Matt Prior and Ian Bell were both given lives.
Prior skied a sweep off Ajmal towards deep backward square where Junaid Khan set himself, only to grass a simple opportunity, and left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman, in the next over, failed to hold on to a fierce Bell drive off his own bowling.
Prior was saved from a confident lbw shout thanks to an inside edge, but Ajmal got his man soon after when the wicketkeeper-batsman went back and, playing across the line, was trapped lbw for three, with a review failing to save the right-hander.
Broad signalled his attacking intentions as England closed on a first-innings lead, hitting Ajmal for consecutive fours before crashing him through midwicket.
In an attempt to claim quick wickets, Pakistan eventually took the new ball, but Broad’s answer was to smash Umar Gul over mid-off for four before slicing the paceman through backward point to put England in front.
Gul made the breakthrough in the second over after drinks, pinning Bell in front for 29 - with a review proving unsuccessful, and Broad, with a despairing full-length dive, was given the benefit of the doubt by the third umpire after Azhar threw down the stumps from cover following a quick single.
Broad was caught on the crease by a Gul short ball, but managed to top-edge just short of deep square-leg and Swann, at the other end, was taking a liking to the out-of-sorts Junaid, driving successive balls for four.
Swann flicked a ball just short of Younus at midwicket before missing Rehman’s next delivery and departing leg before for a run-a-ball 15 as England slipped to 291 for eight.
Broad heaved Rehman over midwicket for a maximum to herald England's 300 before bringing up his half-century off just 52 deliveries with a pre-meditated sweep around the corner.
England were all out in the first over after lunch, Hafeez bowling James Anderson with a quicker delivery before trapping Panesar in front for a second-ball duck.
Hafeez edged the two England seamers just short of Swann and Prior in a nervy start before both openers departed to spin with the score on 29.
Panesar got revenge on Hafeez for his earlier dismissal by removing him in similar fashion and, seven balls later, an uncertain Taufeeq was bowled between bat and pad to become Swann’s victim for the second time in the match.
With the spinners applying the pressure, Younus departed for just a single after an excellent flighted delivery from Panesar clipped the top of his off stump.
Misbah, who top-scored with 84 in the first innings, got off the mark with a fine punch down the ground from Panesar, but Azhar was fortunate not to glove Broad to Bell at short-leg when he was surprised by a sharp bouncer.
After tea Panesar picked up where he left, claiming his third victim when Misbah missed a straight one and was unsuccessful in reviewing the lbw decision as Pakistan slumped to further trouble.
But, some gutsy determination from Azhar and Shafiq stabilised the innings and, as Pakistan edged ahead, the latter upped the laboured run-rate by punishing consecutive short balls from Panesar.
The key partnership should have been broken by Kevin Pietersen, who failed to hit the stumps from close range after Azhar had sent Shafiq back, before a hurried single brought up the Pakistan 100.
England, in need of breaking the valuable stand, wasted a review after umpire Steve Davis turned down a Panesar lbw appeal against Shafiq, who compiled an unbeaten 35.