Nip and tuck Test too close for Broad
Stuart Broad hopes he has helped plunder enough leeway for England to sneak victory over Pakistan in a “nipper” of a Test match at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
Broad’s unbeaten, counter-attacking 58 carried England in front this morning and eventually boosted their first-innings lead to 70.
But after Pakistan had closed on 125 for four, thanks to an unbroken stand of 71 between Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq, Broad admitted he had no idea how this seesaw contest might end.
Victory for England will level the series, with one match left to play next week - and it would also allow Broad to have the last word with the Pakistani taxi driver who taunted him yesterday that the ‘hosts’ would prove far too good for the world number ones.
“He was pretty confident they were going to destroy us, but I had different views,” said Broad, who accepts nonetheless that predictions are fraught in a contest which has ebbed and flowed throughout.
A major factor will be the deterioration or otherwise of a surface which has lurched from apparently unplayable at times against spin to perfectly feasible for long periods.
“I keep thinking when I go to leave the ground at the end of the day ‘Oh, tomorrow is a huge day in this Test match - tomorrow evening I’ll know what the result will be’,” said Broad. “But I keep getting to the end of the day, and I’m no clearer.
“This has been an amazing Test match so far - one for the purists, I suppose - quite slow cricket sometimes, but very intriguing. It really can go either way.”
England can be sure of one thing, that they have at least shown more mettle here than they did in last week’s first-Test defeat in Dubai.
“We’ve shown a lot of fight throughout this Test match, but tomorrow is huge for us,” added Broad.
“We keep reminding ourselves we’re just two (wickets) from their tail, and we know we can mop them up with that new ball if we need to.
“We don’t want to be chasing much more than 250, because scoreboard pressure plays a huge role in Test matches. But even 150-200 is going to be a bit of a ‘nipper’, I think. It’s going to be tight Test cricket.”
Broad’s naturally adventurous batting was just the ticket for the tourists before lunch.
“It was a personal decision to give it a bit of a go, seeing how difficult it looked to defend with the pressure of the quick-turning ball - especially last night," he revealed.
“In the last half-hour then, it was quite difficult to watch your team-mates out there - because it looked really hard Test cricket, with the ball turning both ways.
“I thought my best option would be to try to manoeuvre the field and counter-punch.
“Belly (Ian Bell) played exceptionally well at the other end, soaked up a lot of pressure and allowed me to expand my game. But I don’t think it was reckless hitting - I think I calculated it okay. It paid off, and I think that lead was pretty important.”
England knew from the outset they had to make the most of that relatively small advantage - and after Monty Panesar’s three wickets made early inroads, Broad was satisfied they kept their cool despite Azhar and Shafiq’s resistance.
“Frustrating isn’t the word. In Test cricket, you expect partnerships,” he said. “We didn’t start chasing wickets; we didn’t start trying magical deliveries. We just stayed patient and held. With 19 overs to the new ball and only a lead of 50, we’re delighted with our position.
“We know the new ball has quite a big effect on this wicket. So I think the first hour tomorrow will be a holding hour, both teams trying to get into the day - and then the new ball will be a massive hour.”
Azhar has troubled England already, and will not make it easy for them.
“We’re very confident we’re fighting back in this game,” he said. “We lost four wickets but we’re determined and will not give up.”
Shafiq wants to extend their alliance to three figures as a minimum.
“The mindset was that we have a partnership here, at least a hundred partnership and then we will look,” he added. “It’s too early to say that we (Pakistan) have to put on 300 or 250.”