On his way to an early dinner on Thursday evening, Stuart Broad was assailed by a Pakistani taxi driver. As cabbies do the world over – and why should an Abu Dhabi cabbie be any different? – he offered an unsolicited opinion.
In effect, he told Broad that Pakistan would destroy England in the second Test. At that moment, not many outside the England dressing room would have disagreed. Broad, of course, not only had an opinion. He had the chance to back it up with some action.
It is to be hoped that the taxi driver was one of the 14,000 who came to ground yesterday for the third day of the match. He might not have retracted – why should an Abu Dhabi cabbie be any different from the others? – but he would have seen a pugnacious, possibly match-turning innings.
Broad made his 10th score above 50 for England and again demonstrated why he is the perfect No 8. He took the game to Pakistan in a way that had not been done before in this series and in the process he might have taken it away from them.
Going along at a run a ball when the series so far has barely managed a run every three balls, it was breathtaking stuff. He was not, he insisted, making a point to his cabbie.
"No, not so much," he said. "He was pretty confident they were going to destroy us but I had different views. It was more of a personal decision, looking how difficult it looked to defend against the pressure of the quick, turning ball, especially with the pressure in the last half-hour last night.
"It was quite difficult to watch your team-mates out there because it looked quite difficult Test cricket. So I thought my best option would be to try and manoeuvre the field and counter-punch, really. Belly played exceptionally at the other end and soaked up a lot of pressure, which allowed me to expand my game a bit."
The game quietened down after Broad's unbeaten 58 from 63 balls, which included six fours and a six, courtesy of a better execution of the shot over long-on which had caused his dismissal in the first Test. Pakistan, needing to wipe out a deficit of 70 runs, were caught between a rock and a hard place, to attack or to consolidate. They found themselves four wickets down and still behind. The run rate neared a standstill but the game was never less than engrossing and each run was cheered by what might be described as the large home contingent.
True, Pakistan need to play cricket in Pakistan again for the game to continue to prosper there, but it is also true there were thousands more people in the Sheikh Zayed Stadium on the third day of a Test match than there would have been in Lahore or Karachi.
"I keep thinking when I leave the ground at the end of each day that the next day will be the crucial one, then we get to the end of that day and I'm no clearer," Broad said. "It can go either way again."
Broad is fast becoming a No 8 for the ages, the leader of England's significant tail. He will not always come off but he averages nearly 30.
"Once I hit a couple of boundaries everyone seemed to move out and I could pick up some singles and twos," he said. "You have to choose your times to grab momentum. It was something I could do in a fresh day, but if it had been late in the day there's no way I could have done that."
It was enough to make you feel sorry for a taxi driver.Reuse content