England’s scoring was torturously tortoise in its speed on day three but there is certainly no reason why they, or their Barmy Army supporters, should be frustrated or disheartened by their slowness.
An afternoon session consisting of a meagre 48 runs at 1.78 per its 27 overs was the sleepy nadir of this second day’s play, but while it will infuriate the growing band of noisy T20 supporters, this was patient, resilient Test cricket at its best.
On a pitch so eager to force a result as soon as possible, Ian Bell and James Taylor put together a partnership only a madman would consider free scoring.
Despite the lack of activity, it could well be the most pivotal two hours of England’s series, a watered down version of Pakistan’s devastating third morning in Dubai which ripped the heart out of England’s batting order and put them on the brink of a series win.
Had England’s batsmen in that session shown such resilient stubbornness at the wicket, the series would most likely have been in far different shape.
England would have most likely come away with a draw had they seen out that session and would have come to Sharjah knowing that a good showing would have ensured an historical first series defeat for Pakistan and well and truly put to bed their nightmare 3-0 series whitewash in 2012.
Bell and Taylor’s frugal combination allowed Jonny Bairstow to come in and play with the confidence he showed in his unbeaten 37 that helped lead England to within 12 runs of Pakistan by stumps.
It also kept Pakistan in the field for a full day to mull over their disappointment of day one, the match grindingly drifting away from their grasp with every minute in the field.
Not only was this crucial to England’s hopes of a victory that will tie the series, it was also a much needed show of grit from two players in equal need of proving a point to selectors for very different reasons.
Bell, a long established England mainstay has been desperately short of runs in recent months but has found some form during this series with fifty in the first Test in Abu Dhabi followed up by an equally testing 122 ball 46 in Abu Dhabi.
His 40 from 158 deliveries here will ire his critics who will claim that he wasted deliveries, unable to keep the scoreboard moving anywhere near quickly enough.
They will have a point, but also be missing one that paints a significantly bigger picture.
Bell’s mindset and patience under such pressure to score runs must be applauded and his end to this tour will likely see him maintain his place in South Africa where he will need to follow up his efforts here with more substantial scores.
As for Taylor, his first Test in three years marked a return to the fold for one of England’s most talented first-class players who has been knocking on the door ever since (and for long periods before) his last Test outing against the South Africans.
And here in Sharjah, he showed why the Nottinghamshire man should have been given more of a chance to make an impression on this tour at the very least.
A superb player of spin, Taylor combated the world’s leading leggie with confident defiance.
Not only that, he was remarkably untroubled by Wahab Riaz – who brought about England’s Dubai demise – and Rahat Ali – who made Joe Root look a shadow of his world number one ranking earlier in the day.
He also scored at a rate practically hare-like compared to Bell and was the main reason for England’s progress towards Pakistan’s first innings total in his 74 run innings.
It was a maiden Test fifty for Taylor and one that will leave the majority of observers wondering why he has been out of England’s side for so long.
Like England’s batting on day two, it may have taken time for Taylor’s renaissance but boy was it timely.
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