England made steady inroads into Pakistan’s line-up throughout the three sessions as they looked to keep their opponents within reach on the scoreboard.
That prerequisite seems set to be breached nevertheless, with Pakistan only four runs short of a three-figure buffer ahead of Thursday’s play.
Resuming day two looking to protect a slender 150-run advantage, England needed one or two of their bowlers to rip through Pakistan’s batting order like Saeed Ajmal had theirs 24 hours earlier.
An apparently flat deck and the tourists’ preference for three seamers and one spinner, as opposed to deploying two tweakers and quickies apiece, meant the task in the field seemed tough from the get-go.
It must be remembered, after all, that Pakistan had removed nine of England’s batsmen in their first innings through Ajmal (7-55), Mohammad Hafeez (1-5) and Abdur Rehman (1-50).
With the track and – arguably – tactics perhaps not in their favour then, England set about breaking the first-innings partnership of Hafeez and Taufeeq Umar, whom had put on 42 together in Monday’s third session.
There was little to get encouraged about for Andrew Strauss’ men initially, with Pakistan’s two openers happy to block out, nudge and nurdle singles and punish the odd bad ball to the boundary rope.
A slit glimmer eventually arrived when Hafeez prodded a sharp single to short leg and set off in earnest.
Umar sent his international team-mate back though and Ian Bell ran round, picked up and had a shy at the stumps that missed by a whisker.
Hafeez would have been a goner had Bell’s throw hit the target and, on 44no at the time, his dismissal could have been seen as a good start to a damage limitation exercise.
As it was, both Hafeez and Umar batted on to half-centuries, with the latter (off 94 balls, including nine fours) getting there six deliveries quicker than the former (off 100 balls, including nine fours).
Hafeez then got another lucky reprieve as he mistimed a pull off Stuart Broad that looped up towards a diving Chris Tremlett, who couldn’t quite make the catch stick on the stretch close to the ground.
However, England’s collective mood lifted immediately thereafter as Broad got one to veer slightly away from Umar (58) and peg back his off stump.
The Nottinghamshire bowler also removed Azhar Ali (1) prior to the lunch break by enticing an indecisive dab that only found the outside edge and carried through to wicketkeeper Matt Prior behind the stumps. At lunch, Pakistan had reached 138-2, still 54 behind with eight wickets in hand; the twice-fortunate Hafeez on 70no and new-man-in Younis Khan 3no. Hafeez duly reached 88no and looked on course for a century, when Graeme Swann clipped his pad and he was given out. Hafeez referred the decision, but DRS replays adjudged the ball ‘Umpire’s call’ and he finally had to walk back to the pavilion.
Hafeez’s exit brought Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq to the crease and he – in tandem with Khan – got the hosts 10 runs ahead of England’s tally, when the latter (37) offered no shot to a Jonathan Trott delivery that darted back in and paid for it.
By tea nonetheless, Pakistan had edged out to 21 ahead on 213-4, with Misbah-ul-Haq on 19no and Asad Shafiq 5no.
That middle-order duo had added a further 15 runs to their total too by the 80th over and England’s opportunity to take the second new ball had arrived.
Pakistan 1st innings
Mohammad Hafeez lbw b Swann 88
Taufiq Umar b Broad 58
Azhar Ali c Prior b Broad 1
Younis Khan lbw b Trott 37
Misbah-ul Haq lbw b Swann 52
Asad Shafiq c Prior b Anderson 16
Adnan Akmal not out 24
Abdul Rehman b Anderson 4
Extras: (b2, lb4, nb2) 8
· Total: (for seven wkts) 288
· Fall of wickets: 1-114 (Umar), 2-128 (Ali), 3-176 (Hafeez), 4-202 (Younis), 5-231 (Shafiq), 6-283 (Misbah), 7-288 (Rehman)
· Bowling: Anderson 23.3-7-57-2, Tremlett 20-6-48-0 (nb1), Broad 26-6-72-2 (nb1), Swann 27-3-89-2, Trott 8-2-16-1
· Overs: 104.3
The rising star has already played 100 international matches for the UAE