For a series which was supposed to leave bowlers dashing to be re-trained in alternative occupations to avoid further punishment, this one has been a revelation. In the latest bewildering turn of events, the batsmen of both England and Pakistan conspired yesterday to fold in a heap.
They were confronted by bowling that was honest and accurate but never menacing, on a pitch that offered some encouragement but was never perilous. Pakistan were (just) the worse offenders: all out for 99 by the middle of the day, they were done for at 21 for 5 before the opening hour was out.
England tried their darndest to match them and at 7 for 2 in reply, all bets, so to speak, were off. By the close they were in slightly better shape – by their standards of the past few weeks treading in sunlit uplands if there were any to be found hereabouts – and at 104 for 6 had a narrow but indubitably precious lead.
Andrew Strauss, their captain, had battled his way to 41, already his highest Test score of the tour, and while it was never pretty it was a model of fortitude and refusal to be budged. All the evidence so far suggests that England would not like to chase anything beyond 120 in the fourth innings, which could start any time soon.
The busiest man on a frenetic day was the third umpire, Shahvir Tarapore. He overturned three verdicts after they were reviewed, upheld three others which were referred to him and had to make the closest of calls on a stumping, hitting one button when he might easily have hit the other. Nine batsmen were out lbw, a direct result of the combination of technology and the umpire review system. Umpires are now in a thankless position, damned if they do and damned if they don't. Either they have to get used to it or attend those re-training courses once intended for bowlers.
The drama of this was perpetual but it has clearly left batsmen and possibly officials in a state of disarray. Pitch reading even in Asia might be dodgy but nobody foresaw a first-day scoreline of 203 for 16.
The total number of lbws on both sides has already risen to 35, a record for a three-match series, overhauling the 33 between Pakistan and West Indies 20 years ago when Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram were bowling probing yorkers for fun and any number of opposition fast bowlers matched them.
It was as though the ball was seaming wildly and swinging crazily on an overcast Leeds Tuesday. England's fast bowlers were superb, as they have been for the greater part of the past few weeks. But highly-skilled craftsmen going about their business should not necessarily disrupt opponents of similar quality.
The initial breach was made by Jimmy Anderson, who pinned Taufeeq Umar in front with a ball that swung back in late with the last ball of the match's first over. It was to be a harbinger of doom.
Stuart Broad, England's man of the series, was swiftly to undermine the entire innings with wickets in his third, fourth and fifth overs. Two of them needed to be reviewed after umpire Simon Taufel gave both batsmen not out. Azhar Ali was eventually decreed to have been caught off an inside edge, Younis Khan jabbed belatedly but fatally at a lifting ball outside off and was also caught behind and Mohammad Hafeez was leg before only after England asked for a review.
When Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan's captain, played down the wrong line to Anderson, he must have known his plea for leniency from Mr Tarapore was based on hope and not expectation. So it proved.
Record low scores were a distinct probability at this point as Pakistan, like England twice previously in the series, were gripped by panic. Asad Shafiq mounted some sort of rearguard action after Pakistan went in at lunch seven down. He was the ninth man out for 45 (and the sixth lbw victim of the innings, the second to Monty Panesar) and Pakistan could not quite break into three figures, which might or might not have been a psychological barrier.
No sooner had England taken to the crease with the day almost exactly half over than they were leaving it again. Again, it was the fast bowlers who did the early damage, in this case just the one, Umar Gul. He persuaded Alastair Cook to follow one outside off which ended in Adnan Akmal's hands tumbling in front of first slip.
Jonathan Trott was lbw playing across his leading pad and walked off immediately, perhaps thinking the shot alone was enough to condemn him. Had he referred it, the replays showed, he would have been spared.
For a brief period, it seemed England's fortunes might have turned. Kevin Pietersen was assertive yet careful, Strauss applied himself to the task in hand, his and the team's future at stake.
They were all but two thirds of the way to Pakistan's total when Pietersen was struck on the pad and given out. The review showed the ball was hitting the top of the outside of the leg stump: out he reluctantly went.
Ian Bell was perhaps unluckier still. Circumspect throughout, he missed a ball from Saeed Ajmal which rebounded from Akmal's gloves to dislodge the bails. They might have been removed from their sockets before Bell recovered his ground, they might not.
Eoin Morgan was sent on his way after a review after – begorrah – striking a straight six. Matt Prior was bowled but before further damage was inflicted, England had the lead.
Timeline: How the first day unfolded
6.05am Taufeeq Umar, 0 (Pakistan, 1-1) Trapped by a Jimmy Anderson inswinger in the first over.
6.26am Azhar Ali, 1 (8-2) Caught behind off the inside edge, off Stuart Broad.
6.38am Younis Khan, 4 (18-3) Another catch for Matt Prior after a swipe at Broad.
6.51am Mohammad Hafeez, 13 (21-4) A smart review of a Broad lbw appeal pays off for England.
6.57am Misbah-ul-Haq, 1 (21-5) Misses good ball from James Anderson to be lbw.
7.33am Adnan Akmal, 6 (39-6) Surprised by a Broad inswinger and lbw.
7.44am Abdur Rehman, 1 (44-7) Swipes at Graeme Swann and is caught.
9.18am Saeed Ajmal, 12 (78-8) The hunter hunted: lbw to Panesar.
9.33am Asad Shafiq, 45 (85-9) Another lbw victim for Panesar, caught going back.
9.52am Umar Gul, 13 (99ao) Bowled by Anderson.
10.18am Cook, 1 (5-1) A weak prod to be caught behind, off Gul.
10.27am Trott, 2 (7-2) Plays across one from Gul, unlucky to be given lbw.
11.51am Pietersen, 32 (64-3) Again to Rehman, but unlucky to be given lbw.
12.30pm Bell, 5 (75-4) Fooled again by Ajmal's doosra.
12.50pm Morgan, 10 (88-5) Misses straight ball from Rehman and is leg before.
1.07pm Prior, 6 (98-6) Misses one from Rehman that turns and hits middle stump.
Third Test, Dubai International Cricket Stadium (First day of five): England are leading Pakistan by five runs with four first-innings wickets in hand
Pakistan won toss
PAKISTAN First Innings
Mohammad Hafeez lbw b Broad 13
30 balls 1 four
Taufeeq Umar lbw b Anderson 0
Azhar Ali c Prior b Broad 1
Younis Khan c Prior b Broad 4
8 balls 1 four
* Misbah-ul-Haq lbw b Anderson 1
Asad Shafiq lbw b Panesar 45
78 balls 3 fours
†Adnan Akmal lbw b Broad 6
Abdur Rehman c Pietersen b Swann 1
Saeed Ajmal lbw b Panesar 12
53 balls 1 four
Umar Gul b Anderson 13
27 balls 1 six 1 four
Aizaz Cheema not out 0
Extras (lb3) 3
Total (44.1 overs) 99
Fall 1-1, 2-8, 3-18, 4-21, 5-21, 6-39, 7-44, 8-78, 9-85.
Bowling: J M Anderson 14.1-3-35-3 (8-2-18-2; 2-0-6-0; 4.1-1-11-1), S C J Broad 16-5-36-4 (6-3-12-3; 10-2-24-1), M S Panesar 13-4-25-2 (4-1-6-0; 9-3-19-2), G P Swann 1-1-0-1 (one spell).
ENGLAND First Innings
*A J Strauss not out 41
120 balls 4 fours
A N Cook c Akmal b Gul 1
I J L Trott lbw b Gul 2
K P Pietersen lbw b Rehman 32
44 balls 4 fours
I R Bell st Akmal b Ajmal 5
E J G Morgan lbw b Rehman 10
14 balls 1 six
†M J Prior b Rehman 6
J M Anderson not out 3
Extras (b1 lb3) 4
Total (for 6, 43 overs) 104
Fall: 1-5, 2-7, 3-64, 4-75, 5-88, 6-98.
To bat S C J Broad, G P Swann, M S Panesar.
Bowling: Umar Gul 7-1-28-2 (7-1-28-2) (one spell), Aizaz Cheema 4-0-9-0 (3-0-4-0; 1-0-5-0), Saeed Ajmal 17-5-40-1 (1-0-7-0; 1-0-4-0; 15-5-29-1), Abdur Rehman 15-4-23-3 (15-4-23-3).
Progress: Day one: Pakistan: 50 in 25.6 overs, Lunch: 53-7 in 26 overs (Asad Shafiq 24, Saeed Ajmal 1), Innings Break: 99 all out in 44.1 overs. England: Tea: 19-2 in 8 overs (AJ Strauss 9, KP Pietersen 6), 50 in 13.2 overs, 100 in 38.5 overs, Close: 104-6 in 43 overs (Strauss 41, Anderson 3).
Umpires S J Davis (Aus) & S J A Taufel (Aus).
Third umpire S K Tarapore (India).
Match referee J J Crowe (NZ)