To win the Third Test and salvage their reputation, England need to make history. It is what great teams do, teams who wish to leave a legacy, teams who crave to be remembered down the ages for their stirring deeds.
Redemption in a series that the tourists have already lost because of a series of inexplicable batting errors in the face of high-class bowling will not come easily. At the close of play on the third day of a quite contrary match, England were 288 short of victory, their target of 324 still over a hill and far away.
It was, as it happens, unexpectedly modest. Only by taking Pakistan's last seven wickets for 24 runs did England give themselves a sniff of a chance to win the match and cut the deficit to 2-1. Monty Panesar, redemption personified, took his second five-wicket haul in successive matches, justifying his recall after almost three years.
England started their chase, if that is not a misnomer considering the painstaking pace at which they are likely to proceed, with extreme caution. It would be overstating the case to say that it was without undue alarm: there was a shelled catch at slip and a heart-in-mouth review of an lbw verdict, with each of the opening batsmen, Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook, surviving.
By reaching 36-0, Strauss and Cook had compiled their highest opening partnership of the series. From small beginnings, they might have thought. Only once have England successfully reached a greater target and that was 83 years ago in a timeless Test. Herbert Sutcliffe made a stately 135 in a total of 332 as Australia were defeated by three wickets in Sydney.
Whatever happens, it was a far taller order than England hoped for in the morning, far smaller than it might have been considering the state of the game at certain points during the day and a planet away from what seemed likely on the first morning when Pakistan were 44 for 7 in their first innings.
So utterly had the match been transformed that Pakistan were already 180 ahead with eight wickets in hand when they turned up yesterday.
England quite fancied the idea of taking wickets with the second new ball. It took them almost an hour to despatch Younis Khan for 127 – his review of the lbw verdict failing – but if they thought that was making inroads they still had Azhar Ali to contend with. He was not for moving.
Throughout the long, hot, wearing day, Azhar batted. He rarely seemed to play a shot in anger, or one that was unnecessary. He had time on his side and he intended to use it. He wanted to make England sweat.
By modern standards – the tempo having been raised by limited-overs cricket and by the deliberate policy of the great Australia teams – it was excruciatingly slow. By ancient criteria, it was positively rapid.
In the days when scoring was mere notching rather than a quasi-artform, they usually counted only minutes spent at the crease rather than balls faced. But it is known that the Nawab of Pataudi senior – when playing for England in Sydney in 1932, scored 102 from 380 balls – a rate of 26.84 runs per 100 balls.
More recently, Mike Atherton made 125 while facing 430 balls in Karachi in late 2000, or a rate of 29.07. It brought a degree of opprobrium from some quarters for being out of sync with the modern game, criticism that was swiftly put back in the jar when England went on to win their first match in Pakistan for 40 years.
Azhar, on the other hand, was almost explosive by comparison, his career-best 157 coming from 442 balls, or 35.52. Why, that is more than two runs an over. And he raced to his century, scoring two of his total of 10 fours in five balls, a deft paddle to fine leg and a square drive taking him past the landmark for the second time.
But then something strange happened, not as bizarre as the events of the opening day but unexpected and in England's favour. It was a reward for their tenacity. They were not exactly bubbling along in the face of adversity when Younis and Azhar were taking their third-wicket partnership past 200 but they did not fall apart at the seams either.
The breakthrough that mattered, if they were to have any chance of a tilt at belated glory, came when Pakistan had reached 331 for 3. The captaincy has been the making of Misbah-ul-Haq. He had 13 fifties in 22 innings, a lowest match score of 20 coming in to this Test.
Misbah and Azhar were on the verge of taking their side to places where England could never hope to tread. Misbah then played forward to Panesar and was hit on the pad. As soon as he was given out, a decision an umpire even 10 years ago would not have contemplated giving, he signalled a referral. The ball was hitting and out he went. It was the fifth time in his five innings of the series that Misbah had been out leg before and the fifth time he has unsuccessfully reviewed the decision.
That was the signal for collapse and England, to their credit, scented blood. Panesar quickly struck twice more and Graeme Swann was revitalised by taking Abdur Rehman's wicket for the fourth successive time, edging a catch to slip. How Swann would like more left-handers.
But soon he had Azhar nudging a catch to short leg off the face of the bat and soon after Panesar had five wickets in an innings for the 10th time in Tests. England were in. They had 20 overs to negotiate which must have seemed like half a lifetime.
Cook edged Umar Gul to third slip on four, a reasonably straightforward chance being dropped by Taufeeq Umar, Strauss survived a close call for lbw against Mohammad Hafeez. It was all England could expect.
Timeline: how the third day unfolded
6.00am (UK time) Pakistan 222-2 Pakistan resume with Younis Khan on 115 and Azhar Ali on 75, 180 runs ahead of England.
6.45am Younis Khan, 127 (244-3) England break through as Stuart Broad (left) traps Younis LBW, upheld after a referral.
9.52am Misbah-ul-Haq, 31 (331-4)
A straight ball from Panesar does for Misbah leg before, despite a referral.
10.17am Asad Shafiq, 5 (339-5) Asad misses a Panesar ball (left) that pitches in line with leg stump and straightens: LBW again
10.26am Adnan Akmal, 0 (345-6) Another delightful delivery from Panesar turns and hits the top of Akmal's off stump.
10.29am Abdur Rehman, 1 (346-7) Graeme Swann (right) turns one across Rehman, Jimmy Anderson catches at slip.
10.39am Saeed Ajmal, 1 (350-8) The same combination of Swann and Anderson does for Ajmal, and the players go in for tea.
11.22am Azhar Ali, 157 (363-9) Ali's heroic and probably decisive innings ends, he prods Swann to Alastair Cook at short leg.
11.32am Umar Gul, 4 (365 all out) Panesar takes his fifth wicket, fooling Gul who misses an ugly swipe and is leg before wicket.
1.01pm England 36-0 The England openers make their highest stand of the series, safely reaching stumps, needing 288 more to win.
Dubai (Second and third days of five):
England, with all second-innings wickets in hand, require 288 runs to beat Pakistan
Pakistan won toss
PAKISTAN First Innings 99 (Broad 4-36)
ENGLAND First Innings Friday overnight 104-6
*A J Strauss st Akmal b Rehman 56
150 balls 5 fours
J M Anderson b Rehman 4
S C J Broad lbw b Ajmal 4
G P Swann c Rehman b Ajmal 16
18 balls 3 fours
M S Panesar not out 0
Extras (b1 lb4) 5
Total (55 overs) 141
Fall: 1-5, 2-7, 3-64, 4-75, 5-88, 6-98, 7-106, 8-121, 9-133.
Bowling: Umar Gul 7-1-28-2 (one spell), Aizaz Cheema 4-0-9-0 (3-0-4-0; 1-0-5-0), Saeed Ajmal 23-6-59-3 (1-0-7-0; 1-0-4-0; 21-6-48-3), Abdur Rehman 21-4-40-5 (one spell).
Progress Second day: Innings Break: 141 all out 55 overs. Strauss: 50 141 balls (5 fours).
PAKISTAN Second Innings
Saturday overnight 222-2
Mohammad Hafeez lbw b Panesar 21
36 balls 1 six 3 fours
Taufeeq Umar c Strauss b Anderson 6
16 balls 1 four
Azhar Ali c Cook b Swann 157
442 balls 1 six 10 fours
Younus Khan lbw b Broad 127
221 balls 1 six 12 fours
* Misbah-ul-Haq lbw b Panesar 31
115 balls 1 four
Asad Shafiq lbw b Panesar 5
†Adnan Akmal b Panesar 0
Abdur Rehman c Anderson b Swann 1
Saeed Ajmal c Anderson b Swann 1
Umar Gul lbw b Panesar 4
Aizaz Cheema not out 0
Extras (b10 lb1 nb1) 12
Total (152.4 overs) 365
Fall: 1-16, 2-28, 3-244, 4-331, 5-339, 6-345, 7-346, 8-350, 9-363.
Bowling: J M Anderson 28-7-51-1 (1nb) (6-2-8-1; 6-2-7-0; 3-1-7-0; 9-1-22-0; 4-1-7-0), S C J Broad 24-7-55-1 (3-1-9-0; 4-2-11-0; 4-0-14-0; 8-4-13-1; 5-0-8-0), M S Panesar 56.4-13-124-5 (18-6-35-1; 4-0-10-0; 11-1-39-0; 6-1-18-0; 6-1-7-0; 11.4-15-4), G P Swann 39-6-101-3 (7-0-21-0; 4-0-13-0; 5-2-18-0; 3-0-6-0; 8-1-12-0; 4-1-19-0; 8-2-12-3), I J L Trott 2-0-14-0 (one spell), KP Pietersen 3-0-9-0 (one spell).
Progress :Second day: Lunch: 30-2 in 15 overs (Azhar Ali 1, Younis Khan 1), 50 in 21.4 overs, 100 in 46.1 overs, Tea: 120-2 in 51 overs (Azhar Ali 38, Younis Khan 54), 150 in 63.5 overs, 200 runs in 72.5 overs, Close: 222-2 in 82 overs (Azhar Ali 75, Younis Khan 115). Third day: 250 in 96.4 overs, Lunch: 295-3 in 114 overs (Azhar Ali 115, Misbah-ul-Haq 16), 300 in 118.6 overs, 350 in 141.3 overs, Tea: 350-8 in 142 overs (Azhar Ali 147). Younis Khan: 50 106 balls (6 fours), 100 166 balls (11 fours, 1 six), Azhar Ali: 50 165 balls (2 fours, 1 six), 100 319 balls (5 fours, 1 six), 150 431 balls (9 fours, 1 six).
ENGLAND Second Innings
*A J Strauss not out 19
59 balls 1 four
A N Cook not out 15
62 balls 1 four
Extras (nb2) 2
Total (for 0, 20 overs) 36
To bat: I J L Trott, K P Pietersen, I R Bell, E J G Morgan, †M J Prior, S C J Broad, G P Swann, J M Anderson, M S Panesar.
Bowling: Umar Gul 4-1-11-0 (one spell), Aizaz Cheema 2-0-5-0 (one spell), Mohammad Hafeez 5-2-6-0 (1-1-0-0; 4-1-6-0 ), Abdur Rehman 7-0-12-0 (one spell), Saeed Ajmal 2-1-2-0 (one spell).
Progress Third day: 36-0 in 20 overs (AJ Strauss 19, AN Cook 15).
Umpires: S J Daivs (Aus) & S J A Taufel (Aus)
3rd Umpire: S K Tarapore (India)
Match Referee: J J Crowe (NZ)