Sweet 16 mean many happy returns
Sixteen wickets fell on an astonishing opening day of the third and final Test at Dubai, nine to leg before wicket decisions.
In the first half of the day a Stuart Broad-inspired England dismissed Pakistan for 99, making Misbah-ul-Haq regret his decision to bat first on a blameless Dubai International Cricket Stadium pitch.
The tall paceman continued his imperious form with four top-order wickets en route to figures of 4-36 from 16 outstanding overs. He was ably supported by James Anderson and Monty Panesar, who shared five victims. Only Asad Shafiq offered sustained resistance with 45, 32 more than his next best team-mates, Mohammad Hafeez and Umar Gul.
Gul struck two early blows for the designated hosts in England's reply, but Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen shared a restorative fifty partnership to close in on Pakistan’s paltry total. However, Pietersen became the eighth lbw victim of the day and a record 34th for a three-match series.
Another followed as Eoin Morgan was the penultimate wicket of the latest scarcely believable day of a series in which ball has dominated bat. Before it started, both sides worried about taking 20 wickets to win a game, but 87 have now fallen inside eight days of play.
Abdur Rehman, England’s second-innings nemesis at Abu Dhabi on Saturday when Pakistan won the rubber, claimed 3-23 from 15 overs as only Strauss prospered in the reply - closing with 41 of 104 for six.
Playing not only for pride but also potentially their number-one status, England named an unchanged side while their opponents made one alteration with fit-again Aizaz Cheema replacing fellow seamer Junaid Khan.
Anderson broke through in the first over, trapping Taufeeq Umar in front. Hafeez should have followed without scoring, but wicketkeeper Matt Prior injudiciously left the ball which Strauss spilled high to his left at first slip.
Broad did not have to wait much longer for a breakthrough, having Azhar Ali caught behind on review via a faint inside edge. Another soon followed as Younus Khan, who flicked Broad for four through midwicket earlier in the over, played rashly at a rising delivery well outside off stump, only to be taken by Prior.
There was an element of controversy about Hafeez’s wicket. England reviewed Broad’s lbw appeal and, despite replays showing the faintest of inside edges, the opener was given out for 13. Hafeez could be in trouble with the match referee after he sarcastically applauded the decision while walking off.
There was no doubt about Anderson’s leg before shout against Misbah, who perished without addition to Pakistan’s 21 despite a misguided review. That heralded drinks with Broad boasting figures of 3-10 and Anderson 2-9.
Shafiq and Adnan Akmal dug in, although the latter was fortunate not to be comfortably run out when Morgan missed the non-striker’s stumps from cover point. However, Broad returned to trap Adnan - who used Pakistan’s last review - in front for his fourth scalp.
Graeme Swann, replacing the economical Panesar, delivered a wicket maiden in his only over as Rehman skied a catch to the safe hands of Pietersen in the covers.
Shafiq, the last remaining specialist batsman, cracked Anderson through point for only the third four - from the last ball before lunch when Pakistan were teetering on 53 for seven.
The first scoring shot after the interval was also a Shafiq four, this time a cut off Panesar. Saeed Ajmal, who had lived dangerously, then emphatically pulled Broad to the boundary and his partner did likewise.
Ajmal was soon lbw to Panesar for 12 and Shafiq, who was fortunate to survive on 40 when he edged aerially through a vacant third slip, fell likewise after failing to connect with a misjudged attempted cut off Panesar.
Having survived Anderson’s leg before review, Gul profited by slog-sweeping Panesar for six and leg-glancing Anderson to the rope but was bowled for 13 by the seamer’s full inswinger.
Strauss opened England’s account by leg-glancing Gul for four, but the tall paceman soon had Alastair Cook caught behind by diving gloveman Adnan and trapped Jonathan Trott leg before in consecutive overs. Unfortunately for Trott, who did not review, the ball was going down leg.
Strauss cut Ajmal to the boundary in the last over before tea. He and Pietersen, who cover-drove Cheema for four, grew in confidence, as was epitomised by 15 coming from one Gul over; Pietersen followed Strauss’ cut four with a straight drive and pull to the rope.
Pietersen - who looked increasingly fluent during his 32 in a stand worth 57 - swept Rehman for another boundary, but the left-arm spinner was successful with an appeal against the right-hander, whose review showed the ball just clipping the top of leg stump.
Strauss straight-drove Ajmal for four before surviving a stumping referral on 33 off the same bowler in the first of four consecutive Pakistan maidens. Ian Bell was then unfortunate to be stumped off Ajmal as Adnan spilled the ball onto the wickets with the batsman narrowly out of his ground.
Pakistan reviewed Rehman’s leg-before shout against Morgan in vain but, in his next over, failed to do so when replays showed Strauss was plumb in front. However, Morgan - who had lifted Ajmal for a straight six - was soon undone on 10 by another Rehman lbw review.
Rehman had another when Prior played down the wrong line to be bowled before nightwatchman Anderson, who faced an Ajmal bye that put England in front, saw out five overs.