The blueprint England must follow for third-Test success
Four of the seven Test series Pakistan have hosted in the UAE have been drawn. Three of them have come in the last four tussles. Only two visiting teams have ever won the final match to level the scores. England must add their name to that list in Sharjah if they are to get anything out of this tour.
Graeme Smith’s South Africa were the first to achieve the feat back in October 2013 and Brendon McCullum’s New Zealand achieved it most recently, last November.
On both occasions the visitors, backed into a corner of the last-chance saloon, came out swinging. They played aggressively to shake Pakistan out of their grinding gameplan and succeeded.
The Proteas bowled Misbah-ul-Haq’s men out for 99 on the first day of their Dubai win. They went on to claim an innings victory, thanks to a double century from their skipper and eight wickets in the match for legspinner Imran Tahir.
A similar winning margin was attained by the Black Caps, although this time in Sharjah. After a first-innings seven-for from offspinner Mark Craig, that restricted the hosts to 351, McCullum weighed in with his own double-ton.
He scored at a blistering pace and combined with Kane Williamson for a second-wicket stand of 297 as the Kiwis compiled 690 all out. The three spinners in their side then shared six second-innings wickets as Pakistan fell 80 runs short of making their rivals bat again.
Although contained within a miniscule sample, there is a clear strategy to obtain victory in these parts: big runs from your top order and attacking bowling from the spinners.
Indeed the win Alastair Cook’s men almost snatched on the final day of the first Test followed that same path. The skipper scored heavily in the first dig, then Rashid span Pakistan out, with support from Moeen Ali, to set up a frantic chase.
A sustained repeat of that positive final day is required to force a victory here and James Taylor’s busy approach to batting – in place of the uncertain Jos Buttler – should help in that regard.
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