Swann puts faith in England batsmen
Graeme Swann hopes hard graft has given England a shot at redemption in the final throes of their disappointing Test series with Pakistan.
It took the tourists almost nine hours to shift the limpet-like Azhar Ali, who was eventually ninth out for 157 in Pakistan's second innings of 365 - in which the last seven wickets fell for just 34 runs.
But after Azhar and Younus Khan - who hit 127 - had shut them out for more than 80 overs in a stand of 216, England must still make the second-highest fourth-innings chase in their history to claw back a 2-1 series defeat over the last two days at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
There was nonetheless a spring in the step of Graeme Swann after he and Monty Panesar, who took 5-124, ensured a target of 324 - which openers Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss had reduced by 36 at the close.
Heroics will be needed tomorrow from a batting unit struggling for collective form, a fact epitomised by England’s 72 all out in pursuit of 145 to square the series at Abu Dhabi.
However, Swann dares to believe that the world number ones' batsmen may be about to turn the corner in this rubber.
"You can easily get really down on yourselves and start feeling sorry for yourselves," said Swann, reflecting on Pakistan's mid-afternoon score of 331 for three.
"But we didn't do that and made sure we kept fighting because, let's face it, chasing 500 is nigh-on impossible, but 320 is gettable."
Previous setbacks ought to be significant motivation too.
"This game should be the decider," Swann continued. "This should be the best day's Test cricket ever tomorrow because it's deciding the whole series.
"If it wasn't for two hours of absolute madness in Abu Dhabi it would be.
"We have to salvage something from this series. It looked for a long time today as if we wouldn't have the chance to do that. But it was a great end to the day.
"We got just rewards for our perseverance with the ball, pulled it back, and now we're in with a fighting chance.
"Without the perseverance we all showed out there, Pakistan would have got an unassailable lead. But I don't believe they've got that."
Strauss and Cook, with 19 and 15 respectively, made an assured start to the chase.
"It could have been a very tricky period for the openers, but they've calmed the storm nicely and set us up nicely for what we hope will be a good chase tomorrow," Swann added.
"Each of the batsmen will have come up with game plans that differ from the Abu Dhabi debacle in the second innings because that simply wasn't good enough for a Test team, not to be able to chase that total against anyone.
"On current form, it's an absolute mountain to climb. But I think we're due a decent score in this series. I'm forever the optimist and I'd like to think a couple of them are going to go out and wow everyone tomorrow. Our batsmen have certainly got a point to prove.
"If this game goes the full five days, I'll eat this hat. I'd be very surprised if there wasn't a result by the end of tomorrow, or early on the fifth day, and I look forward to toasting Straussy and Cooky's magnificent 330-run partnership!"
Swann was delighted to see fellow spinner Panesar back with such a vengeance, taking 14 wickets in two matches on his return to Test cricket.
"People were very quick to jump on Monty's back a couple of years ago when he was left out," he said. "But he's remained a very fine bowler and he's bowled exceptionally well in the two games he's played over here."
However, Pakistan's third-wicket pair had few problems with either Swann or Panesar for more than three sessions.
"Younus and Ali batted superbly," Swann added. "But it may be the worst thing they could possibly do, because they may have shown us how to bat against the spinners on this pitch."
Azhar is not so sure that will prove to be the case.
“When you score runs and it helps your team get into a strong position it is very satisfactory for me and I was quite ecstatic today," he said.
"I really enjoyed it out there, batting long is a real pleasure. We are 100% confident now. We can't relax because we have to get 10 wickets, but that's a big total."