Misbah was outstanding on a dicey surface
The fact that a wicket, expected to deliver a run feast for fans, was dicey in character, allowed the ball to turn, and also the swing to a side, forced to field first. That did not mean that the turf had venom, and unplayable. It was a surface, where, turn, swing and bounce, all were there. If Englishmen were surprised by its behaviour, they found it rewarding in the end. But the Pakistanis, instead of cashing on their high morale after the astounding 1-0 lead in the Dubai Test, appeared either overconfident or failed to apply themselves. The way Taufeeq Omar and Hafeez got out after crossing the half century mark after the opening wicket partnership, a slump was anticipated. Both Azhar and Yunus looked tentative, shrinking themselves in a shell, rather than playing boldly, and benefitting from the bounce, which genuine batsmen always cherish, not only to display their talents, but also gain control over the bowlers. Nothing of the sort was seen from either of the two. Taufeeq, completely misread Swannís delivery which he had left with bat high in the air, and surely must be speechless as to what had really happened to him.
He saw his off stump gone, and Hafeez, playing brilliantly in the beginning, was beaten all ends up to see himself falling soon afterwards. He should have known that the wicket is taking grip, and going on the back foot or allowing the spin to do the damage, was a blunder, unpardonable for an in form opener.
A general impression was that neither of the Pakistani players had gone in with a plan as to how to face Swann and Panisar. The latter came back after a long time, and preferred over a third seam bowler, had an early reward, but then after came in for some heavy punishment, conceding a costly 91 runs in 33 overs. Swann was more enterprising for his 3 for 52, taking the third wicket in the penultimate over of the day.
The brunt of preventing the collapse fell on the Pakistani captain. He knew and so did everyone in the ground, that Pakistan has batting till number 7. Then the last four of the playing 11, are all bowlers, and not much can be expected from them. From 103 for 4, Misbah, showing tremendous maturity, often involved in difficult salvage and rescue operation, not only was conscious of the team limitations, but discharged the onerous responsibility with remarkable ability. Praise is due here also to young Asad Shafiq who displayed a sense of discipline and aggression during his 199-run partnership for the 5th wicket. He even surpassed Misbah in collecting the much needed runs, and apart from stabilizing the innings, played some sweetly timed strokes. But he too fell to indiscretion, attempting a wild sweep off Swann, little realizing that the ball was coming slowly to the bat, and slight mistiming would be unforgiving. That exactly happened with him. Had he continued to show responsibility, Pakistan would have saved atleast two more wickets and put on more runs on board.
The Pakistani capital, as usual, was cool and calculated. He has sometime been criticized for his slow batting.
But that has been his hall mark throughout his career. He is cool as cucumber even in the face of gravest of situations, and that had more than often, paid him off. On Wednesday also, he stroked the ball, whenever required, keeping the safety as his watchword in mind, and rotating the strikes to enable the score board ticking. He was dropped at 38 but that is all part of the game. His dependence on Adnan Akmal was natural. In the first innings of the First Test the wicket keeper batsman, had played a marvellous knock of 61, and had helped the side gain a sizeable lead.
But in Abud Dhabi, he never looked the same, and despite being dropped in the slips, was bowled by Chris Broad, who had earlier taken two valuable wickets for his die, Adnanís loss was a major disappointment for his skipper and the side, for the team was still not out of the troubled water. In the last over the game, Misbahl hoisted Monty Panisar to two towering sixes on the first two deliveries before Saeed Ajmal, played out the over. Pakistan needs to put 30/35 runs more for a fight back, because English bowlers got the reward they never expected. Swann and Broad for their wickets should be grateful to winds in the ground, and also fault judgement of the rival batsmen. But then credit must not be denied to them for bowling a fine line and length.