Throughout the day, they streamed into the stadium.
Across the sands the people flocked in their hundreds. Perhaps word had spread of what an utterly enthralling match was taking place inside, another entry in the illustrious canon of Test cricket.
Or maybe it was because Friday afternoon is their only time off all week and there is never usually any cricket to watch hereabouts. But what cricket it was on the third day of the second Test, England striving to draw level in the series, Pakistan refusing to let their lead slip, an absorbing combination of thrilling aggression and resolute defence.
England played impeccably for most of the day. They counter-attacked in the morning with an innings of calculated brilliance from Stuart Broad which gave them a precious lead of 70. They then despatched four of Pakistan's top order in short order and when Misbah-ul-Haq, the bulwark, went early in the last session it seemed that England must prevail.
The recalled Monty Panesar, on in the sixth over, took three of the wickets. He was not only justifying his return to the side after three years, he was on the verge of bowling them to victory.
A stubborn and vigilant fifth-wicket partnership changed the outlook again. The run rate, in contrast to the blazing assault in the morning when 117 runs came from 157 balls, occasionally dipped under two runs an over. But Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq, both from apprehensive beginnings, ensured that there would not be a second successive three-day finish in this series.
It was slow and it was pulsating. There were two key moments for England. With the score on 93, the lead only 23, Shafiq was sent back after calling his partner for a single. He was stranded as Kevin Pietersen swooped in from cover but the underarm throw missed from five yards, missed by an inch.
Pietersen clattered headlong into the stumps and then placed his head in his hands, not because he had caused himself physical injury but because he knew what an opportunity had gone begging. With four overs of the day left, Panesar had an lbw appeal rejected and called for the review against Shafiq. The ball, according to the replay, was clipping leg stump, but the regulations made it the umpires' call – under the regulations a clip is as good as a miss.
There was a case for saying Azhar and Shafiq should have been more assertive but their clear feeling was that they could not afford risks. Pakistan have spent the last 15 months playing in this kind of way, ticking along, eating up time, hoping to get enough runs and overwhelm the opposition through Saeed Ajmal's trickery. Ajmal might have crossed England's minds as they sought to consolidate as the day wore on, not chasing wickets but not conceding runs either.
The morning session of the match is unlikely to be equalled this winter. England had some early fortune when Matt Prior, sweeping to backward square leg, and Ian Bell, driving a fierce return to the bowler, were both dropped.
But they needed quick runs because to defend would be to invite eventual dismissal. Broad provided them. He was in quicker than the team would have liked when Prior, who had left behind the straight bat which served him so well in Dubai for one which was too prone to play horizontally, was leg before to Ajmal playing back.
Broad declared his intentions early with a lofted off drive for four and continued to raise the stakes. Bell merely held up an end while his partner played the shots and he made only 14 of the 47 they added. Bell was lbw to Umar Gul, failing to play forward to the second new ball and England led by only 11.
It was important that the tail once more did its stuff. Broad drove down the ground and nudged into the gaps and Graeme Swann played with his usual zest. In some ways this position fitted their styles to perfection. They had nothing to lose and it worked.
The last four wickets added 106 runs. Broad overtook Ashley Giles as England's second-highest run-scorer in the No 8 position, and now stands only 10 runs behind the 833 runs accrued there by Godfrey Evans. It is a small record which has stood for 53 years, but an important one, a statistic of the variety crucial to the Oscar-nominated film Moneyball.
There is loose talk that Broad would be a handy No 7. But he is too useful where he is and can play a quite different kind of game. As his innings went on, some Pakistani minds might have turned to Lord's in 2010 when he rescued England from 105 for seven by scoring 169. And he was batting at nine that day.
England went into lunch at 323 for eight and in the first over after it were 327 all out. Mohammad Hafeez bowled Jimmy Anderson and then had Panesar with the 19th lbw verdict of the series.
Taking a leaf out of the Misbah manual on how to deploy spin, Andrew Strauss called up Panesar with the maker's name still on the ball. Swann was on soon after. Hafeez was leg before to Panesar and for the second time in the match Taufeeq Umar was bowled by Swann. This time the ball went between pad and bat – perhaps Taufeeq was trying to ensure it did not go past the outside of the bat as it had in the first innings, and if so he succeeded.
Panesar then bowled Younis Khan with one that turned just enough and then he had the prized wicket of Misbah. In his 22 innings as captain, Misbah had taken his batting average to 80 in his first visit to the crease here.
He takes his duties seriously and it was entirely understandable that he should ask for a review. It took an age to decide whether the ball had hit pad before bat. He was eventually out but it was to Pakistan's credit that the decision was not as momentous as it might have been.
Facts In Figures
130: Test wickets taken by Monty Panesar, who has 3 for 44 so far in this innings
37: Months since Monty last took three Test wickets in an innings – against India in Chennai in December 2008
28.33: Stuart Broad's Test batting average after he compiled a vital undefeated 58 in England's first innings
52: The batting average for the leading run-scorer in the series – Mohammad Hafeez
Timeline: How the third day unfolded
6.27am (UK time) England 227-6
Saaed Ajmal traps Matt Prior lbw for 3. England are still 30 runs behind with just four wickets left.
7.15am England 268-7
Umar Gul's rising delivery nips back and hits Ian Bell's back pad. He's given out after a review.
7.45am England 291-8
Graeme Swann is plumb lbw after a straight ball from the impressive Abdur Rehman.
7.53am England 312-8
Stuart Broad reaches his half-century off 52 balls, his ninth Test fifty and a crucial one.
8.43am England 327-9
James Anderson is bowled as a quicker one from Mohammad Hafeez rattles his off-stump.
8.45am England 327 all out
Hafeez again. Monty Panesar gets a big inside edge but is given lbw. No referrals left. Lead of 70.
9.48am Pakistan 29-1
A role reversal as Panesar removes Pakistan opener Hafeez, rightly given out lbw.
Swann from around the wicket finds the gap between Taufeeq Umar's bat and pad.
10.11am Pakistan 36-3
Monty outfoxes Younis Khan with a beauty which pitched off-stump and straightened to hit.
11.07am Pakistan 54-4
Pakistan, trailing by 16, lose captain Misbah-ul-Haq to another Panesar lbw – a very close call.
12.32pm Pakistan 125-4
Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq steady the innings with a stubborn fifth-wicket stand of 71.