England faces a difficult task of chasing another 288 runs to win the match with all their second innings wickets in hand at stumps.
Azhar Ali stole the show on the third day of the final Test at Dubai by hammering his career best 157 runs in the second innings of Pakistan.
Pakistan could manage just 99 runs in their first innings and England was bowled out for 141 runs and gained a lead of 42 runs. Pakistan lashed back in the second innings by smashing 365 runs aided by tons from Younis Khan and Azhar Ali.
The third day’s play came to an end with anxiety in the England camp on February 5, 2012, at Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
Pakistan started the third day in a confident position at 222 for the loss of just two wickets in 82 overs. Younis and Azhar were unbeaten on 115 and 75 runs respectively after sharing a match winning partnership of 194 runs for the third wicket.
Azhar got a life when he was dropped at 84 runs in the second slip by Graeme Swann off James Anderson in the 91st over. Stuart Broad got the first break through of the day by claiming the wicket of centurion Younis in the very next over when he was declared leg before wicket for 127 runs.
Captain Misbah-Ul-Haq joined in with Azhar and the flow of runs was squeezed immediately by calculated bowling from the English bowlers. Azhar completed his second Test ton on the fourth ball of the 106th over when he dispatched Panesar for a rolling boundary through point. His first century was also scored at the same venue in the second Test against Sri Lanka in late October, 2011, which Pakistan won by nine wickets.
The duo strengthened the position by a solid partnership of 87 runs when Misbah was gone for 31 runs. The fourth wicket went down at 331 runs and England spinners got hold of the game. Monty Panesar and Swann ripped through their batting as Azhar was the ninth batsman to go back to the pavilion after smashing 157 runs. The middle and lower order of the hosts surrendered as no batsman was able to get into the double figures and the entire team was bowled out at 365 runs.
Panesar was the star performer with five wickets, Swann had three victims as Anderson and Broad shared one wicket each.
Pakistan gathered a good lead of 323 runs and England was chasing a big target for winning the Test. Alastair Cook got an early life when he was dropped at four runs by Taufeeq Umar in the third slip on the third ball of the third over off Umar Gul. It was a sitter and the opportunity of getting early wicket was lost and England saw the day through by scoring 36 runs without any loss in 20 overs. Andrew Strauss played a chanceless innings of 19 runs and Cook was unbeaten on 15 runs.
There are still two days left in the match, England requires another 288 runs to win the encounter and Pakistan will hunt for ten wickets. The English batsmen have to play dedicated innings to achieve the target which is not impossible if they can negotiate the lethal spin bowling of Pakistan who has let them down in the previous two Tests.