Pakistan build lead in Dubai

Pakistan 99 & 222-2 v England 141

Dubai

England had no answer to Younus Khan and Azhar Ali as the duo ground out a position of ominous authority for Pakistan on day two of the final Test.

The third-wicket pair reordered the balance between bat and ball to shut England out for 72 overs, and counting, to close on 222 for two - with a lead of 180 - after 22 wickets had fallen inside the first four sessions.

Andrew Strauss' tourists must therefore contemplate a fourth-innings target significantly in advance of the one which proved well beyond them on the way to series defeat in Abu Dhabi last week.

Younus (115 not out) and Azhar (75no) joined forces at 28 for two in the 10th over, still 14 runs behind after Strauss (56) had helped his team into what seemed then a useful mid-match advantage.

They then simply wore down England, and their bowling resources - gradually until tea and more adventurously thereafter in an unbroken stand of 194.

Theirs is by far the biggest partnership of a series previously characterised by an apparently unstoppable clatter of wickets, punctuated mostly by DRS scrapes rather than any permanence on the part of the batsmen.

Younus took 106 balls over his first 50 but only 60 more to reach his 20th Test hundred, which contained 11 fours and a six.

His ultra-patient partner provided a perfect foil at the scene of his only Test hundred to date, against Sri Lanka last year, in a 246-ball stay as Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann became ever less threatening on this fair pitch. The left-arm spinner was reduced, for long periods in his holding role, to bowling flat and quick into leg stump from over the wicket to the two right-handers.

James Anderson was successful at least in stemming the flow of runs, more so than his fellow seamer Stuart Broad - who left the attack after taking a blow to his foot from a straight drive but was able to return to bowl the last over of the day with the second new ball.

In the end, it was as much as England could do to collectively limp to stumps in the hope of conceding as few runs as possible and finding some respite early tomorrow.

Strauss' continued defiance this morning had earned the tourists a first-innings lead of 42, but Abdur Rehman's second successive five-wicket Test haul still helped to hustle England out for 141.

England, 2-0 down, need to win this dead rubber to be sure of keeping their world number one status for the International Cricket Council cut-off date at the start of April. Strauss lost nightwatchman Anderson in the first over of the day, bowled through the gate trying to push-drive Rehman's orthodox left-arm spin.

Broad soon went at the other end, lbw on DRS pushing well forward to a Saeed Ajmal doosra which struck him just in line with off stump.

Strauss' concentration did not dip, though, and he was rewarded with a 141-ball half-century - only his second in the past 12 months - when he went up the wicket to Rehman (five for 40) and got a thick edge past slip for his fifth four.

The opener had used the same tactic throughout, using his feet to Rehman in particular, but eventually fell doing just that - stumped after missing a mow to leg - and Swann was last out, sweeping Ajmal (three for 59) to deep backward-square.

England were back in the wickets themselves after just seven overs with the new ball, Anderson finding Taufeeq Umar's outside edge on the front-foot defence for a regulation slip catch.

Then Mohammad Hafeez, having already hit Panesar for a straight six and a cut for four in the same over, missed a sweep and was hit on the back thigh - enough for Steve Davis to judge him lbw.

But if England were anticipating adding more gains to those prompt dismissals of both openers, they had reckoned without the expertise of Younus and Azhar - which was to make a mockery of earlier events.

PA

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