DUBAI // Test cricket finally broke out at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium yesterday afternoon, when Younis Khan and Azhar Ali navigated their way through two sessions against the world’s No 1 side without surrender.
For the first four sessions, this match had suffered from acute Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Twenty-two wickets went down, and most of the time was spent frantically flicking the buttons on the TV, trying to find the right channel for the Decision Review System.
The fact it was Younis who brought the about the cessation of the frenzy was somewhat easier to forecast than the rest of this bizarre series has been to date.
He likes the quiet life. When the white noise which constantly surrounds Pakistan became too voluble for him in 2010, he laid down his tools and went fishing instead.
After the spot-fixing apocalypse of that year, Pakistan have enjoyed an unusually quiet revolution under the cerebral leadership of Misbah-ul-Haq, and Younis has been a cornerstone of it.
“I feel I am a positive kind of person,” said the former captain, whose 20th Test century was a lesson in how to bat against the turning ball.
“In the first innings I got out to a bad shot [when he edged a catch behind off Stuart Broad's bowling]. Last night I had a talk to myself, and today I made a hundred.”
Thanks to the dapper alliance of 194 - which is only 46 short of what the two sides managed between them in their first innings - between Younis and Azhar, Pakistan look set fair to complete a first series whitewash over England.
After turning around with a 42 run lead on first innings, England set about Pakistan, with James Anderson and Monty Panesar making two early incisions.
Their momentum was wholly blunted, though, by the free-spirit of Younis, and the earnestness of young Azhar, whose unbeaten 75 has taken him 246 deliveries so far. Good on him.
Even though a third win on UAE soil is now in sight, Younis warned that much has yet to be done.
“England have fantastic players, and they can fight back,” he said. “I think they need some luck and some more aggression.”
Spin, and the inability of England’s batsmen to counter Pakistan’s fine slow bowlers, has already decided this series in the Asian side’s favour.
The England players could learn much from the way Younis went about his innings, with all its judicious shot-selection, most notably his dextrous use of the sweep-shot - both regular and reverse.
Alastair Cook, the England opener who says it will take “serious guts” to prevent a series whitewash, lauded Younis for his innings.
“He took the attack to us,” Cook said. “With a strike-rate of 60, he never let the bowlers settle in to any sort of rhythm.
“They didn’t give us a chance in those last two sessions, and they played very well. They have given us a real mountain to climb.”