Unbeaten stand of 71 between Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq helped Pakistan out of a tricky situation, but England were still on top at stumps on day three of the second Test in Abu Dhabi.
After Monty Panesar (three for 44) wrecked the Pakistan top order to reduce them to 54 for four, Ali and Shafiq were able to knuckle down in the final session on Friday and take their side to 125 for four, a lead of just 55 with six wickets in hand.
With Pakistan finding themselves 70 adrift of the tourists at the start of their innings, England captain Andrew Strauss brought spin into the attack as early as the sixth over and after the hosts labored to 29 without loss after 12, Panesar made the breakthrough when he trapped Mohammad Hafeez (22) plumb in front.
Graeme Swann then struck in his first over as he spun the ball through a massive gap between Taufeeq Umar’s (seven) bat and pad and onto the stumps.
At 29 for two it suddenly looked bleak for Pakistan and things went further south when Younis Khan (one) also saw his pegs knocked back with a ripper from Panesar. The ball pitched inside off stump, turned past the outside edge and clipped the off stump.
Skipper Misbah-ul-Haq and Azhar Ali then parked the bus and saw out numerous maidens before reaching tea on 44 for three. However, Misbah (12) fell after the break when he became another Panesar victim. The left-hander struck Misbah on the knee roll and the umpire raised the dreaded finger. The Pakistan captain went for the review, but third umpire Billy Bowden saw no reason to overturn the decision.
It was then up to Ali and Asad Shafiq to build a good partnership as one more wicket would have exposed a lengthy Pakistan tail. With very little stroke play and plenty of defending the pair guided the team to 125 for four at close, but not before Shafiq survived a UDRS call from England when Panesar struck him on the pad shortly before stumps.
Earlier in the day England attacked from the outset as they began on their overnight score of 207 for five and, while the more accomplished batsmen in Ian Bell and Matt Prior were unable to provide any real thrust, the all-round talent of Stuart Broad did just that.
Indeed, Prior was lucky to survive any more than the opening two overs of the day, when he was dropped in the deep by Junaid Khan while attempting to sweep Saeed Ajmal. The spinner would not be denied, though, and he later had Prior adjudged out lbw for three.
The dismissal brought Broad to the crease and together with Bell, who was lucky to see Abdul Rehman grass a caught-and-bowled chance, passed Pakistan’s first-innings total of 257.
Broad looked in good touch from the get-go and played some fine attacking strokes as he outshone Bell during their partnership of 41. Bell was a victim of the new ball, with Umar Gul making the most of a brief opportunity to eclipse the efforts of the spinners. The paceman got one to nip back at the right-hander, who was hit fairly high up on the roll while back in his crease. Even the DRS could not save him as the right-hander departed for 29.
Swann (15) soon followed after a brief flurry and with wickets falling, Broad continued to make merry with some fine strokes.
At the lunch break, Broad was unbeaten on 58, with James Anderson on 9 at the other end as England reached 323 for eight, but they could add just four more runs after the break as Anderson and Panesar both became victims of Hafeez’s off-spin.