x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Swann optimistic of England's chances of winning the third Test

England have only once chased a higher score in the fourth innings successfully, and that was in 1928. Audio of Azhar Ali's interview

DUBAI // As the England team make their bus trip to the Dubai International Cricket Stadium this morning, they will pass by plenty of monuments to human endeavour. They could do with the inspiration.

Between them, they will need to construct a batting performance of Burj Khalifa proportions if they are to salvage any morsels from this Test series, and avoid a series whitewash against Pakistan.

England require another 288 runs to secure victory in this final Test. Stranger things have happened - but not often.

England have only once chased a higher score in the fourth innings to win a Test match, and that was in 1928.

Judged on the form they have shown on their tour of the Emirates so far, they have no chance. However, they are the world's No 1 Test side for a reason.

"On current form we have an absolute mountain to climb, but our batsmen have a point to prove to themselves," said Graeme Swann, who took three wickets yesterday. "I think we are due a decent score in this series. I am forever the optimist.

"I'd be very surprised if there isn't a result either way either [today] or early on the fifth day. I look forward to toasting a [Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook's] magnificent 333-run partnership."

England have been afforded the glimmer of a chance of ending the first-class leg of their tour of the UAE the way they started it, namely with a win, thanks to the latest step in the renaissance of Monty Panesar.

The left-arm spinner had been exiled from Test cricket for two years, but has enjoyed such a revival here that he was entrusted with the ball before Swann, who is said to be England's premier spinner, in both innings of this Test.

His reward yesterday was five wickets, his second haul of such in successive Tests.

He had to toil for it. He sent down 57 overs, which made a joke of the trendy idea that the onset of the Decision Review System is making life easy for bowlers, and spinners in particular.

"He has bowled exceptionally well in the two games he has played over here, which is a reminder of how good he is," Swann said.

"Monty bowled very well, and I think it is down to all four of the bowlers. Without the perseverance we showed, Pakistan would have got an unassailable lead, but I don't think they have got that."

Panesar and Swann, the less than identical spin twins, hastened Pakistan's demise with the bat by taking the last seven wickets for just 34 runs.

Azhar Ali, who made his second Test century at the same ground where he made his first, might have hoped his epic, 533-minute vigil would have put his side out of sight. However, he acknowledges victory is not a given.

"We are 100 per cent confident," Azhar said. "We have to get 10 wickets. We can't just sit back and wait for it to happen. One good partnership could take the game away from us."


Best comeback – Monty Panesar
The left-arm spinner’s five wicket haul was the 10th of his Test career, which is not a bad strike rate for someone playing his 41st match. His form since returning to the side in Abu Dhabi has been so strong, it is clear he does not fancy another two-year hiatus from the international game.

Worst come down – Taufeeq Umar
When Pakistan played in the UAE before Christmas, Umar had a great time, posting his highest ever Test score in the Test at Abu Dhabi. He has suffered lean pickings thereafter, though, and this Test has been a write-off. He shelled a catch when Alastair Cook was on nought, to add to his two failures with the bat.

Best patience – Azhar Ali
Most batsmen in this series have seemed to suffer from a short-attention span. Not so for Azhar Ali, who was only dislodged after facing 442 deliveries. “The wicket was slow, and you have to be patient to get runs here,” he said.

Worst reviewer – Misbah-ul-Haq
Pakistan’s captain has been dismissed lbw in all five of his trips to the wicket in this series, a sequence which has only happened once before in a three-Test series. He has burned one his team’s two umpire referrals on each occasion. One of the perks of being captain, no doubt.

Best catch – James Anderson
Anderson edged ahead of Matthew Hoggard and into sixth place on the list of England’s leading Test wicket-takers in this match. The fast bowler also has a fine body of work in the field, to go with his 249 victims with the ball. His sharp catch at slip to remove Saeed Ajmal here was exceptional.


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