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Saeed Ajmal keeps Pakistan fighting with three late wickets against England

Ajmal takes three late wickets to help Pakistan back into Test as Cook falls short of century

Alastair Cook fell short of a 20th Test hundred as Pakistan battled back with three late wickets from Saeed Ajmal to hold a mid-match advantage as England look to level the series.

Cook was lbw for 94 to the wiles of Ajmal late on day two at the Zayed Stadium, and remains one short of his mentor Graham Gooch's tally of centuries and still joint-sixth on the all-time England list.

His efforts were nonetheless notable for helping to give the world number ones even prospects of winning here, and heading for next week's final Test of three with a chance of series victory after all.

Back in from: Alastair Cook hit 94 runs as England took command on day two

Back in from: Alastair Cook hit 94 runs as England took command on day two


Click here for the full scorecard

Cook shared a gritty and telling second-wicket stand of 139 with Jonathan Trott (74), after captain Andrew Strauss had continued his recent relative lack of productivity with another failure at the top of the order.

But his dismissal, the first of three for only nine runs shortly before stumps, undermined an otherwise encouraging day for the tourists – who closed on 207 for five in reply to 257.

England themselves had taken Pakistan's last three wickets in 15 minutes this morning, for the addition of just one run, to earn an obvious opportunity to hit back after their first-Test hammering last week.

Man of the moment: Pakistan's Saeed Ajmal took three late wickets

Man of the moment: Pakistan's Saeed Ajmal took three late wickets

But they had to bat well to do so, against Ajmal in particular, on a pitch already offering exaggerated assistance to the slow bowlers.

They lost Strauss early, before Cook and Trott took over – with luck on their side more than once.

Strauss played Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez well enough after Pakistan turned to spin by the sixth over, until he fell bat-pad to the latter and an off-break which bounced a little more than expected.
Hafeez conceded only 10 runs in as many overs up to lunch, and Ajmal was soon posing tough questions too.

Building a partnership: Cook and Jonathan Trott put the runs on the board for England

Building a partnership: Cook and Jonathan Trott put the runs on the board for England

Cook survived a scare on 27 in the last over of the morning when a sharp bat-pad chance just evaded short-leg off Hafeez, and Trott would have gone lbw on DRS for just 22 had Pakistan reviewed Steve Davis' not-out decision.

Misbah-ul-Haq's men were to have no joy at all with DRS, eventually squandering both reviews for lbws against Trott just before and just after he reached his 95-ball 50.

Trott and Cook rarely convinced for long against spin, and it was a moot point whether they were able to pick Ajmal's doosra – which was turning more than in Dubai last week but was marginally less dangerous as edges were missed and lbws harder to come by.

That is out: Trott sees his bails go as he is dismissed for 74That is out: Trott sees his bails go as he is dismissed for 74

That is out: Trott sees his bails go as he is dismissed for 74

England cared not too much about all of that, though, as long as their second-wicket pair stayed together and continued chipping away at an ever-decreasing deficit.

They did so, in fact, until Trott failed to cover his stumps in front-foot defence and lost his off-bail to a fine delivery which slow left-armer Abdur Rehman turned sharply from round the wicket.

Just short: Alastair Cook walks back to the pavilion after being dismissed six runs short of his century

Just short: Alastair Cook walks back to the pavilion after being dismissed six runs short of his century

Cook relied on his chief assets, concentration and shot selection, and appeared set for his milestone hundred only to fall at last – after almost five hours on duty – missing some Ajmal turn on the front-foot defence.

When Kevin Pietersen also went to Ajmal before stumps, caught at slip via bat and pad aiming an ambitious drive, Ian Bell and Eoin Morgan were left to survive a perilous passage of play – and it proved too much for the left-hander, who edged the last ball of the day to slip off the deserving Ajmal (three for 67).

Caught out: Asad Shafiq takes the wicket of Strauss with a catch

Caught out: Asad Shafiq takes the wicket of Strauss with a catch

Long walk back: England's captain Andrew Strauss was out just before lunch

Long walk back: England's captain Andrew Strauss was out just before lunch

England therefore still had work to do to make sure Cook and Trott's efforts would not be in vain, but a first-innings lead still looked a probability.

England had begun the day in the field, but not for long. Stuart Broad (four for 47), the outstanding bowler yesterday, kickstarted a run of three wickets for no run in seven balls when he saw off Misbah for the addition of just a single to his overnight 83.

Shift in momentum: Ajmal takes the wicket of Eoin Morgan to give Pakistan the advantage

Shift in momentum: Ajmal takes the wicket of Eoin Morgan to give Pakistan the advantage

Once the Pakistan captain went, lbw in the second over of the day to a Broad ball which nipped back in off the seam – as several had on Wednesday – James Anderson took over to make short work of the tail.

He was responsible for the last two wickets in the same over, Ajmal lbw pushing forward and Umar Gul fencing a catch to second slip.

It was a near perfect start for England, and – thanks mainly to Cook – much that followed was in their favour too.

Good start: England's bowlers dismissed the remaining three batsmen for just one run

Good start: England's bowlers dismissed the remaining three batsmen for just one run

England v Pakistan: Monty Panesar returns

Monty worth a spin: England bowlers shine on Panesar's return

The last time Monty Panesar played Test cricket he was the toast of Cardiff after joining forces with Jimmy Anderson to save an Ashes Test with the bat.

He returned on Wednesday at another ‘neutral’ venue to show that he still has a role to play for England with the ball.

The Sheik Zayed Stadium resembles a spaceship that has landed awkwardly in the desert and is as far away as it is possible to be from the tumult of that last day in Wales two-and-a-half years ago.

Howat! Monty Panesar was brought into the England side at short notice

Howat! Monty Panesar was brought into the England side at short notice


England v Pakistan scorecard

Yet it was here that an older, wiser, more proactive Panesar resumed what looked destined — before the revival of Graeme Swann — to be a long career as England’s first-choice Test spinner.

So uncertain were the tourists of their best line-up for this crucial second Test that Andrew Strauss made up his mind to go with two spinners in a four-man attack, the first time England had done so in nine years, just moments before the toss.

Even then Panesar, who took eight wickets in the warm-up game against a PCB XI in Dubai, was not aware that he was playing, saying that he only found out about his inclusion 20 minutes before the start. The rest of us were told 10 minutes earlier when the team was announced.

If that suggests Panesar is still not the most worldly-wise of characters, he has certainly matured from the bowler Shane Warne once famously derided as having ‘not played 39 Tests — just his first one 39 times’.

A move away from home at Northants to Sussex, together with the life experience of taking himself away from his wife and comfort zone earlier this winter to play grade cricket in Australia, have brought Monty out of his shell.

He was even known to take to the stage to sing with former Australia seamer Mike Whitney’s band before Christmas and is said to perform a mean Bruce Springsteen impression on karaoke.

Here he was told to be the boss by Strauss as early as the 10th over and handed almost twice as many overs as Swann once it became clear that the ‘senior’ spin partner did not relish bowling from the Spaceship End with a strong breeze blowing across the desert.

Figures of one for 91 do not suggest a dream return but Monty of the desert bowled a lot better than that, certainly better than Swann, and would have made the key breakthrough had Jimmy Anderson held on to a chance at slip when Misbah-ul-Haq was on 30.

Got him! Panesar (right) celebrates the wicket of Mohammad Hafeez

Got him! Panesar (right) celebrates the wicket of Mohammad Hafeez

It was one of three drops by England —
plus another half chance not taken by Alastair Cook — and was easily the
most expensive as the Pakistan captain, who ruined Panesar’s figures by
hitting him for four sixes down the ground, remained unbeaten on 83 as
his side stuttered along to 256 for seven at the close.

This was a very good performance from England. They had originally decided to choose between Graham Onions and Steven Finn in place of the stricken Chris Tremlett, who has flown home with a back injury — Jade Dernbach is favourite to replace him.

But the late change of heart to play two spinners rather than three seamers was justified when Panesar and Swann got early turn with the new ball.

Then the attack collectively bowled better and better as the day went on to take seven wickets after Pakistan had won the toss on what is supposed to be one of the flattest pitches in the world.

Main man: Stuart Broad

Main man: Stuart Broad

If Panesar could be pleased with his comeback then the pick of the attack was Stuart Broad, who has rarely bowled better for England. He was so good that comparisons with Glenn McGrath, the man he once said he wanted to emulate, were totally justified.

Time and again Broad landed the ball in the right place, just short of full, just outside off stump, to emphasise that he is the best of England’s bowlers in these alien conditions. The days when he repeatedly bowled too short in his ‘enforcer’ guise against Sri Lanka last summer seem long gone. In particular Broad’s second spell either side of lunch, during which he took two for 20 in 10 overs, was a masterclass in how to bowl when the wicket is slow, flat and offering little.

Twice Broad had the pleasure of seeing the batsman’s off stump cartwheel out of the ground, even gaining a bit of seam movement, and he returned to add a third wicket with the second new ball, making sure that Strauss’s drop to reprieve Adnan Akmal was not costly.

Pakistan look destined to record only the second score of fewer than 400 in this ground’s short Test history, giving England a fantastic opportunity to get back into this series — but there can only be more turn in this surface and Pakistan have three spinners.

Most pertinently, they have a certain Saeed Ajmal in their ranks and it is how England play him that will decide if they can take the first step towards conquering their final frontier. Hold your breath when England start batting.

Put down: England dropped four catches against Pakistan

Put down: England dropped four catches against Pakistan

Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Strauss will come good, insists Andy Flower

KP and Strauss will come good, insists Flower

Andy Flower examined the debris of
England's first Test capitulation, dusted himself down and backed his
shellshocked batsmen to get it right when they move on to Abu Dhabi next

There was strong support for captain
Andrew Strauss, a defence of Kevin Pietersen's moment of madness and a
refusal to exonerate the bowling action of Saeed Ajmal from England's
team director in the aftermath of a thrashing by Pakistan that nobody
saw coming.

Caught out: Kevin Pietersen's rash shot in England's second innings

Caught out: Kevin Pietersen's rash shot in England's second innings

Flower has not had to defend too many embarrassing defeats in his extremely successful reign, but on Friday he was serious, measured and clearly concerned at his batsmen's inability to deal with both the mystery spin of Ajmal and the pace of Umar Gul.

First up there was the captain, whose form is now reaching the point where it has become an issue.

Strauss has a massive amount of credit in the bank but the fact is he has one Test century in the last 30 months and is just over a month away from his 35th birthday.

The two-times Ashes-winning captain wants to retire after the back-to-back series against Australia which begin in 18 months.

But he will have to score at least one century in the remaining two Tests here or in the series in Sri Lanka that follows if he is not to face serious questions over his chances of getting there.

On the back foot: Andy Flower

On the back foot: Andy Flower

'I'm not going to speculate about his future,' insisted Flower.

'He's a very good player who has performed in all conditions against world-class bowlers and I expect him to do so in the near future.

'Any batsman will worry about not scoring runs, that's their job. We've all got to take responsibility for this loss.'

Nobody more so than Pietersen, who had his worst Test for England, scoring two runs from 37 balls and, more worryingly, looking desperately out of touch, as he did in the warm-up matches.

The mode of his dismissal, pulling meekly to one of two fielders placed precisely for the shot, was excruciating.

'Any batsman who has played cricket at any level has made bad decisions and I wouldn't castigate him for that,' said Flower.

'Look at replays of past Tests and you will find great players who will have done things that look horrible in isolation. He's a good cricketer and he's got two more Tests to contribute to England victories.'

But can he hit back and can England

Shellshocked: England captain Andrew Strauss (front center)

Shellshocked: England captain Andrew Strauss (front center)

They looked like novices against Ajmal in particular and England have just four days before the second Test to find a cure to an age-old problem – how do English batsmen combat mystery spin in subcontinental conditions

Flower was fascinating when asked about Ajmal.

Sportsmail understands there are still considerable doubts within the England camp over the legitimacy of the off-spinner's action and Flower refused to say, as Strauss had done in the aftermath of the 10-wicket defeat, that he had no problem with the man of the match.

'Our job is to deal with whatever bowler comes up against us and it is the ICC's job to police the game,' said Flower.

'I've got my own private views and talking about them here and now will not help the situation.'

So that doesn't sound like you are happy with his action

'I've got more important things to think about than that and that is getting us ready for the next Test. I don't think he got inside the guys' heads.'

Controversial delivery: Saeed Ajmal

Controversial delivery: Saeed Ajmal

OK, if the man who took seven first-innings wickets and three more in the second did not get inside England's heads, what went wrong

'Even though the ball wasn't turning much we didn't deal with it skilfully and we made poor decisions,' said Flower.

'We made it look harder than it was, quite frankly. Most good spinners bowl a good length and don't give you much to work with. He's a good spinner and he certainly bowled a good length, which creates doubt as to whether you should get forward or back. With that pitch being quite low, that presented very obvious problems.

'The bottom line is we didn't play very well. We made poor decisions. If you could make good decisions all the time you'd win all the time. Sport isn't like that. We certainly didn't come here saying, “We're the No 1 side in the world and we're going to beat these guys 3-0”. We knew it would be tough. That's what Test cricket is about. We got punished for sloppy cricket.'

Flower added: 'Just because we've come back before guarantees us nothing in the second Test. What we do know, though, is that we are a good side and we have some very fine batsmen who have done incredible things over the last couple of years.'

Now they have to do it again.


Nasser Hussain: We"re right in this but Ajmal still holds key

We're right in this but Ajmal still holds key

England bowled very well on Wednesday, on the sort of day I expected to see when this series started.

In fact, they were excellent, which makes the first day even more of a disappointment.

England sat in when they needed to and attacked when they needed to.

Scroll down for more

Key to victory: Saeed Ajmal had England in a spin on day one

Key to victory: Saeed Ajmal had England in a spin on day one

They were controlled, disciplined and had the patience that is so important in subcontinental conditions.

Andrew Strauss's captaincy was very
good, too, as he rotated his bowlers well and even conjured up a wicket
by bringing on Jonathan Trott.

There was absolutely nothing in the pitch for anybody.

More from Nasser Hussain…

Nasser Hussain: Forget the spin, it was simply bad batting from England

Nasser Hussain: What Strauss and his troops need to do to beat Pakistan

Nasser Hussain: Use Westfield case to warn off young players

Nasser Hussain: I wonder if I've played in a dodgy game

Nasser Hussain: Now ICC must step up the fight against corruption in cricket

Nasser Hussain: Strauss's England team put the rest of the world to shame

Nasser Hussain: Century for Tendulkar would only serve to paper over the cracks

Nasser Hussain: India can't afford to let run-machine Dravid retire now


Pakistan, if anything, were a little
bit too defensive and if they just sit in all day, like they did on
Wednesday, they are in danger of letting England nibble away at them and
get wickets.

In conditions like this you still
have to stay in a positive frame of mind and look to score runs without
becoming careless, as England did on Tuesday.

Otherwise the game will go nowhere.

The one Pakistan batsman who did stand out was Mohammad Hafeez, who I've been watching from a distance for the past year.

Hafeez is a more than decent off-spinner, who began England's demise on Tuesday and is a good slip catcher too.

Now he showed us he's a very well-organised batsman who does not appear to have many technical weaknesses.

When you think that the Pakistan openers averaged 11 for the first wicket when they toured England last time, they already look to have a much stronger pair in Hafeez and Taufeeq Umar.

Stuart Broad was brilliant and the ball he bowled to dismiss Taufeeq was an absolute beauty in these conditions.

So, too, was the one that Trott bowled to get rid of Younis Khan, one of the best batsmen in the world, and I really feel that Trott is just as good as Paul Collingwood in that role of fifth bowler.

No-one else got that amount of seam movement and I believe Trott has a role to play here with the ball.

Undercooked: Chris Tremlett

Undercooked: Chris Tremlett

Chris Tremlett looked a bit undercooked, having not played since his injury last summer, and he has to show again that he can change his length like he did in Cardiff last summer when he went fuller in the second innings against Sri Lanka and took wickets.

As he bowls more, that ability will come back.

There have been off – spinners from England's past who may have looked at Saeed Ajmal taking seven wickets on the first day and felt under pressure to do the same but I do not think Graeme Swann is the sort of character who gets fazed that way.

Swann knows that he doesn't have a doosra but also that he has been very successful doing things his way.

He bowled very well without being handed wickets, as Ajmal was.

There are no demons in this pitch and England are still very much in this game, especially after those two late wickets.

The locals say that the surface here does not break up and become some spitting thing as the Test goes on but if anything will get even slower.

The key then will be how England play Ajmal both in the second innings and in the rest of this series.

They will lose here if they do not work out how to play him – and quickly.

Crooked cricketers should be banned for life, says MCC"s anti-corruption unit

Crooked cricketers should be banned for life, says MCC's anti-corruption unit

The MCC world cricket committee have called for life bans to be introduced as a top-end punishment for corruption in cricket.

Headed by former Australia captain
Steve Waugh, the MCC's anti-corruption working party have submitted 10
recommendations to be put to the International Cricket Council's
anti-corruption and security unit (ACSU).

Shamed: (L-R) Mohammad Aamer, captain Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif

Shamed: (L-R) Mohammad Aamer, captain Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif

As well as the life bans for captains, vice-captains and coaches found guilty of corruption, the list includes the possible use of 'mystery shoppers' to probe players thought to be susceptible to criminality.

It was undercover reporting which uncovered the Pakistan scandal in 2010, when captain Salman Butt and bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer were found to have taken part in a spot-fixing plot during the tour of England.

All three were jailed and also handed long bans by the ICC. Skipper Butt was banned from cricket for 10 years, of which five years were suspended, meaning he could be back playing in September 2015, whereas under the MCC proposals his career in cricket would be already finished.

The MCC, in a statement detailing the outcome of their two-day meeting in Cape Town which concluded yesterday, said any covert operation should be 'preferably directed at somebody already suspected'.

The MCC recommendations also indicate polygraphs – lie detectors – may have some role to play in the probing of players under suspicion, but suggest that their use should be at the behest of those under investigation.

Call: Former Australia captain Steve Waugh

Call: Former Australia captain Steve Waugh

The MCC, which has a role as the accepted guardian of the game, also indicated dissatisfaction with the inconsistent use of cricket's decision review system (DRS).

India have refused to embrace DRS, while teams decide before matches to what extent it will enter play – resulting in variations between series, particularly with regard to hot-spot technology and the predictive element of the Hawkeye ball-tracking system. In a statement, the MCC called for DRS to be used in the same way across all international cricket.

The MCC said: 'The committee has urged the ICC to ensure uniformity on the implementation of the decision review system.

'It is wrong that there are such different playing conditions – that the DRS is not used when India play.

'It supports the ICC's efforts to maintain and improve the DRS along the lines – reviews initiated by the players – that have been established so far.'

The MCC world cricket committee also said they were 'unanimously disappointed with the fact that no place has been found for a World Test Championship play-off until 2017'.

The committee backed experimenting with day/night Tests, and said it was 'disappointed' that England's Test series with South Africa this year will consist of just three matches.

It also heard from Majid Khan, the former Pakistan captain, on security issues in his country and recommended that on the basis of his report an MCC delegation should make a visit to consider the potential for playing international cricket there in future.

Due to security fears, stemming from a terrorist attack on the touring Sri Lanka team in Lahore in 2009, Pakistan have been restricted to playing matches in other countries.

They play England in a three-match Test series in the United Arab Emirates, beginning next week.

England frustrated on opening day of tour in UAE

England get a frustrating taste of what's to come on opening day of tour in UAE

England know for sure they are in for three instalments of old-school Test cricket' against Pakistan after day one of their tour of the United Arab Emirates.

Stuart Broad and his bowling colleagues found out the hard way against an ICC Combined XI what they already suspected, namely that taking wickets in Dubai and Abu Dhabi will be mighty tiring work this winter.

Broad made the most of the new ball after Andrew Strauss had won the toss in the three-day warm-up match, taking a wicket in each of his first three overs to reduce the Combined XI to 10 for three.

Fine batting: Christi Viljoen frustrated England on the opening day of their tour

Fine batting: Christi Viljoen frustrated England on the opening day of their tour

But Christi Viljoen (98) and Mohammad
Shahzad (51) led the fightback to help their team to 281, before
England reached stumps on 16 for none in reply.

Broad, in his first match since
suffering a shoulder injury at Lord's in September, was nonetheless
highly satisfied with his own well-being and England's work-out.

'The bowlers are pretty happy with bowling the ICC XI out for that,' he said.

'The conditions have been great because they're quite similar to what I think we'll face in the Test matches.

'It would be no good coming here and having a wicket that seams everywhere and isn't actually getting the miles in our legs.'

Having a word: Andrew Strauss speaks with Steven Finn on Saturday in Dubai

Having a word: Andrew Strauss speaks with Steven Finn on Saturday in Dubai

Broad (four for 46) got his team off to a flier but then had to wait until the final ball of the innings for his last wicket.

'Getting four wickets with the new
ball was crucial,' he added. 'It didn't do loads, but there was
something to keep you interested.

'That's going to be crucial for us in the Test matches series, to use the new ball and the second new ball wisely.

'Then that period from 50 to 80
(overs) is going to be a real holding role, I think. We're not going to
be able to burst through Pakistan because I just don't think the wickets
are going to be suited to that.

'We got the ball reversing a tiny bit
today, but the wicket had gone quite slow by then so it was hard to
burst through the defences.

'The bowling unit were aware of that, but I think today highlighted it.'

Broad expects England to bat well on
the benign surface, and has no doubt today's experience will prove a
reliable guide to what is to come against Pakistan.

'I think that wicket is pretty good. I think we might enjoy batting on that,' he added.

There are prettier grounds... The scene on the opening day of England's tour

There are prettier grounds… The scene on the opening day of England's tour

'It could have been worse. We're all
happy to have bowled them out, but it was hard work and we're all aware
this Test series is going to be like that, attritional cricket, going at
two and a half or three an over and fielding for long periods of time
to try to bowl teams out for 300 or 350 in probably about 120 overs.
That's old-school Test cricket, I suppose.'

Broad knows exactly how much work he got through after England were fitted with GPS tracking technology in their vests.

He reported no soreness in his
bowling arm in his first spell after injury, but accepts he will feel a
few aches and pains by the second day.

'The shoulder seems fine, stronger
than it was before,' he said. 'Whatever you do in the gym, nothing gets
your body like doing 90 overs in the field so I'm a little bit scared of
waking up tomorrow.

'We've had these GPS things on today and mine shows I've done more than 16k, so I will be a little bit sore in the morning.'

Suoth Africa v Sri Lanka: Jacques Kallis scores double century

Kallis hammers double century as South Africa take control of third Test with Sri Lanka

Jacques Kallis made a career-best double hundred to help leave South Africa in a strong position at the close of day two in the decisive third Test against Sri Lanka in Cape Town.

Kallis, having already achieved the feat of scoring centuries against every Test-playing nation by reaching three figures, finally fell for 224 while AB de Villiers contributed an unbeaten 160 as South Africa made a daunting 580 for four declared.

Sri Lanka then continued the run-fest by racing to 149 for two in reply by stumps, with captain Tillakaratne Dilshan scoring a quickfire 78 at the top of the order.

Jacques the lad: Kallis celebrates reaching his double hundered

Jacques the lad: Kallis celebrates reaching his double hundered

South Africa v Sri Lanka

Click here for a full scorecard

That still left the tourists 431 runs adrift though, and they will be hoping veteran duo Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, who finished the day unbeaten on 35 and seven respectively, can take a significant chunk out of that deficit on Thursday.

For the second successive day the bowlers were made to toil as both the South African and Sri Lanka batsmen enjoyed their time in the middle at Newlands.

All-rounder Kallis resumed this morning on 159 opposite De Villiers, who was on 45 not out, with the hosts in a commanding position on 347 for three.

Kallis, who got a pair in the second Test defeat, built on his sublime showing yesterday to rack up his double century today but fell victim to Rangana Herath when his attempted smash to long-on could only find the grateful hands of Angelo Mathews.

Tons of fun: De Villiers chipped in with 160 as the hosts dominated day two

Tons of fun: De Villiers chipped in with 160 as the hosts dominated day two

Tons of fun: De Villiers chipped in with 160 as the hosts dominated day two

Departing on 224, from 325 balls and boasting 31 fours and a six, Kallis was given a standing ovation as he returned to the pavilion.

His departure brought about the break for lunch before De Villiers motored from 84 to reach 160 – off 205 balls and featuring 19 fours and two sixes – while Jacques Rudolph (51) also collected a half-century before the declaration came.

Despite that daunting total, Sri Lanka took the attack to their opponents when they came out to bat and openers Dilshan and Lahiru Thirimanne put on 70 in less than 15 overs before the latter was bowled by Morne Morkel for 23.

Sangakarra joined Dilshan at the crease and the pair put on another half-century stand before South Africa made their second breakthrough.
Dilshan, after striking 12 fours in run-a-ball 78, went after Imran Tahir and picked out Graeme Smith at long on.

That was a late blow for Sri Lanka but key duo Sangakkara and Jayawardene ensured there were no more setbacks before stumps.
The three-Test series is level at 1-1.

Late gains: Thirimanne is the first to lose his wicket - clean bowled by Morkel

Late gains: Thirimanne is the first to lose his wicket – clean bowled by Morkel

Stuart Broad exclusive: I"m bang up to speed

I've gone on a diet and endured the toughest pre-season… I'm bang up to speed

The new term

I feel like this is my first day back at school! I’m fit and raring to go against Pakistan here in Dubai. It’s been quite a while since I’ve been back with the boys and everyone has been together.

We don’t have a huge amount of time before our first game on Saturday, which is why I’m lucky to have gone on a bowlers’ training trip to Potchefstroom.

Team of the year: Stuart Broad (back right) is delighted to be back with England for a competitive reason, in Dubai to face Pakistan

Team of the year: Stuart Broad (back right) is delighted to be back with England for a competitive reason, in Dubai to face Pakistan

In years gone by, that facility in north-west South Africa wouldn’t have been available so I feel fortunate to have had 10 days away bowling before Christmas because now I feel up to speed.

It was as hard as any pre-season I’ve had. You can’t get an awful lot out of being indoors in England in December.

My mixed 2011

Last year was a huge learning curve for me. I had my first real sustained period of awful form against Sri Lanka, when I couldn’t buy a wicket, but then perhaps the best series of my career against India. I feel a much better player for both experiences.

Then there was the high of getting the Twenty20 captaincy, only for the low of being able to do it for only two games because of injury. At least we have a week on this tour with a block of three Twenty20 internationals when we can really work on that form of the game.

High times: Broad was made England's Twenty20 captain, while Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss will lead in other forms

High times: Broad was made England's Twenty20 captain, while Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss will lead in other forms

How to produce more of my Indian form and less Sri Lankan
It's about getting experience, I suppose. I don’t tend to look too deeply into form but I believe my percentage of short or back-of-a-length balls in the Sri Lankan series was around 45 per cent, whereas against India it was closer to 10 per cent.

That stat speaks for itself and I’ve got all my wickets from the India series on my iPad so I’ve been looking at them over the last couple of days. They were all batsmen coming forward so, with my height, if I can draw the batsmen into those forward shots I think it’s going to lead to success.

Less good: But the skipper was struck down by injury after two games

Less good: But the skipper was struck down by injury after two games

I didn’t get ‘floaty’ against India because there’s nothing worse than seeing a 6ft 6in bowler being driven down the ground, but I tried to give the ball a chance to swing and it worked. It’s important I find the right length. I found it in those Tests against India.

Going on a diet

I didn’t need to do it particularly, but with the guys going to India in October and me having to stay at home, I thought I’d set myself a challenge.

It’s not often we get a chance to be at home, being able to watch what we eat, because spending so much time in hotels and restaurants, you never know exactly what’s going in your food.

The ECB sorted it out for me with a company called Soul Mate Food. The menu was sent over to me and basically involved sticking to 2,000 calories a day under the direction of an ECB nutritionist.

Footballers use it, too. The meals were still hearty, but they gave me all the goodness I needed and they were delivered every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I knew I’d be working hard in the gym so I didn’t want to be eating rubbish at the same time. But I won’t lie, I’d had enough after six weeks of it.

I had only water and tea to drink and I missed the odd beer. I don’t know how these Olympic athletes do it. I enjoyed my first chocolate bar after that little stint!

I chilled out in November, then ramped it up in December. It’s lovely to get out of bed just now without an aching knee or ankle.

The guys all look in good shape. There doesn’t seem to be anyone who’s had too much Christmas turkey. Fitness will be important. Dubai won’t be frighteningly hot, but Sri Lanka will. We haven’t got to where we are without discipline and the guys know how important it is to be as fit as possible.

Injury prone

I’ve thought about this a lot because I had gone five years without injury and then two or three reasonably big ones came along in short succession. Is there a trend developing I don’t think so because they have all been different and quite rare.

Any lasting damage Broad rejects claims he is 'injury prone'

Any lasting damage Broad rejects claims he is 'injury prone'

The specialist said he hadn’t seen an abdominal tear like the one I suffered in Adelaide for 20 years and then I had to see three different specialists for my injured arm because none of them had ever seen anything like it, other than once in a water skier.

If it was a consistent ankle spur or something like that it would be more of a concern, but the ones I’ve had have been random.

I have discovered that, when my muscles go, they tend to tear, so I’ve tried to harden them up and be a bit more sensible with my body. I musn’t turn little strains into tears by bowling on when I shouldn’t.

Out of form: Broad, in his own words, couldn't buy a wicket against Sri Lanka

Out of form: Broad, in his own words, couldn't buy a wicket against Sri Lanka

An autumn in Nottingham

Three months at home has enabled me to spend time doing things I don’t usually have time for and I’ve enjoyed watching different sports. Mind you, it hasn’t been too enjoyable watching Forest — they went seven matches without a goal!

A new experience was ice hockey and I dropped the puck at the start of a Nottingham Panthers game because they had supported the Broad Appeal in aid of motor neurone disease. The Panthers sold their shirts from a game and raised 6,500 which was incredible. It can be tough raising money and awareness in the winter because my old man is away, and now I’m away, but the appeal is going well.

The wedding of the year

We all went down to the farm on New Year’s Eve for Alastair Cook’s wedding and it was a fantastic day. Most of the lads had ordered their Christmas turkeys from him and now here we were celebrating at the same place where a couple of weeks earlier there had been thousands of turkeys. He drove off after the service in a tractor, too.

A proper farmer as well as being a pretty decent opening batsman!

Hitched: The England squad attended Alastair Cook's wedding on New Year's Eve

Hitched: The England squad attended Alastair Cook's wedding on New Year's Eve

Now for Pakistan – the sequel

It’s important we move on but, of course, there will always be bitterness over what happened in 2010 because it brought a horrible end to what was a great summer of cricket. The one-day series was a very average one to play in, to be honest, and not what you hope for from international cricket.

The strength of this England team has been that we’re able to deal with circumstances like that and focus on what we do well. It’s important we do that again in this series.

We musn’t go into it with anger and aggression inside us because of what’s happened in the past. We need to get the job done and win a Test series. We won’t win over here by bearing grudges.

Now I’m buzzing being back on tour again and can’t wait to get into the old routine. It’s going to be an exciting year.

England rely on Ashes heroes for Pakistan series

England rely on the Ashes heroes again for Pakistan series

The perennial question of balance will again prove England”s biggest poser after they stuck to their winning formula on Friday and named the squad that won the Ashes to take on Pakistan.

Only the retired Paul Collingwood will be missing from the party who triumphed so spectacularly in Australia. England have shown their commitment to continuity by giving Ravi Bopara another chance as the squad”s reserve batsman.

Last outing: Panesar hasn

Last outing: Panesar hasn”t played for England since the 2009 Ashes Test in Cardiff

That means England are determined to retain their six-batsman policy, with the fit-again Eoin Morgan a crucial figure against spin at six, which will make it harder for them to include a second spin option in Monty Panesar for this three-Test series in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

England will be banking on their fast bowlers to gain reverse swing in the United Arab Emirates in what will probably remain a four-man attack, with Stuart Broad, Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan all recovering from injury in time for selection.

It will be a contrast to Pakistan, who have been fielding up to three spinners in their recent “home” series against Sri Lanka.

Samit Patel could have been included as a batsman good enough for the top six and able to provide a second spin option, but there remain doubts about his fitness and his ability as a Test bowler.

Rearguard action: Panesar and James Anderson

Rearguard action: Panesar and James Anderson”s last-wicket stand saved the first Test for England in 2009

Rearguard action: Panesar and James Anderson

Andy Flower made it clear in an interview with Sportsmail that Patel”s international career is still in the balance but he has been training hard with Nottinghamshire and needsto continue doing so.

Patel”s moment of truth will come when England name their one-day squad next month. Jonny Bairstow would have been the imaginative choice either as back-up batsman or as the second keeper ahead of Steve Davies. But England”s consistency, so often lacking in the dark days of the past, is the selectors” watchword and is to be applauded.

Back in the fold: Davies has also returned to the squad

Back in the fold: Wicketkeeper Davies has also returned to the squad

The jury remains out on Bopara after years of deliberation, but he did little wrong when filling in for Jonathan Trott last summer and remains a highly-talented batsman and useful back-up bowling option, particularly on what are expected to be slow, turgid pitches.


How Sportsmail”s Paul Newman broke the news on Wednesday

The Essex man still has to convince Flower and Andrew Strauss that his temperament is strong enough for international cricket and he had a poor one-day tour to India in October.

The Emirates may prove to be his lastchance, with a host of talented batsmen in the Performance Squad queuing up to take his place. Davies”s selection, as revealed by Sportsmail on Thursday, is the correct choice, not least because he was unlucky to be dropped so ruthlessly from England”s one-day thinking justahead of the World Cup.

England squad

England need a “proper” second keeper on any Test tour and the Surrey man did nothing wrong in Australia.

Bairstow”s keeping is said, at this stage, to be below the standards required at the highest level. Craig Kieswetter was the only other option but his technique with bat and, perhaps, gloves is not good enough for Test cricket.

Panesar has done well to remain in England”s plans as a one-dimensional cricketer even though he has workedhard on his batting and fielding.

But, again, England have got it rightin going for the best option should Graeme Swann be injured, even though it will be almost impossible to get both spinners into the first choice line-up.

The popular Panesar was the highest wicket-taker in the first division of the county championship last summer with 69 victims and has made a good impression working on his game in Sydney so far this winter.

Pakistan have regrouped impressively since the shame of the spot-fixing affair and will provide dangerous opposition to England on their first opportunity to defend their title as the best Test team in the world.

Flower, Strauss and managing director of England cricket Hugh Morris met earlier this month to reassess their targets and their conclusion was that

England”s success over the last two years must be the start of the journey. They don”t want to encourage anysense of the mission being accomplished.

A sensitive series against talented, mercurial opposition is the perfect opening test of those ambitions.

Virender Sehwag breaks one-day world record

Sehwag smashes his way to one-day world record with stunning 219 against Windies

Virender Sehwag hit a record-breaking 219 to make the highest individual score in one-day internationals in India”s match against West Indies in Indore.

The opener passed team-mate Sachin Tendulkar”s 200 not out against South Africa in February last year as he put the Windies bowling to the sword.

Balls eye: India

Balls eye: India”s captain Virender Sehwag smashed his way to a world record 219


V Sehwag 219 India v West Indies December 8, 2011
SR Tendulkar 200* India v South Africa (Gwalior) February 24, 2010
CK Coventry 194* Zimbabwe v Bangladesh August 16, 2009
Saeed Anwar 194 Pakistan v India May 21,1997
VA Richards 189* West Indies v England May 31,1984
ST Jayasuriya 189 Sri Lanka v India October 29, 2000
G Kirsten 188* South Africa v UAE February 16, 1996
SR Tendulkar 186* India v New Zealand November 8, 1999
SR Watson 185* Australia v Bangladesh April 11, 2011
MS Dhoni 183* India v Sri Lanka Oct 31, 2005

The 33-year-old, who was dropped on 170, hammered seven sixes and 25 boundaries in his magnificent 148-ball knock as India posted 418 for five in the fourth ODI.

Sehwag, whose previous ODI best was 175 against Bangladesh in Dhaka in February, brought up the record in style with his 23rd four of the match.

He was finally dismissed in the 47th over off the bowling of Kieron Pollard.

The double century also took him past the 8,000-run mark in ODIs.

The Windies used seven bowlers in a bid to find a way to stop the Sehwagonslaught, but none will be keen to remember their figures.

Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir put on 176 for the first wicket before the latter was run out by Marlon Samuels for 67.

Salute: Sehwag also passed the 8,000-run mark during his special innings

Salute: Sehwag also passed the 8,000-run mark during his special innings

Dismantled: The India captain took the West Indies bowling attack apart

Dismantled: The India captain took the West Indies bowling attack apart

Suresh Raina was run out by Andre Russell for 55 to leave India 316 for two in the 41st over, while Sehwaggot a reprieve on 170 when he was dropped by Darren Sammy off Ravi Rampaul.

Russel removed Ravindra Jadeja for 10 before Sehwag surpassed Tendulkar”s record to move on to 201.

Pure delight: Sehwag 219 beat compatriot Sachin Tendulkar

Pure delight: Sehwag 219 beat compatriot Sachin Tendulkar”s previous best of 200

He added 18 more runs before his glorious innings came to an end, Pollard finally getting some joy for the beleaguered Windies attack.

But Rohit Sharma hit 27 off 16 and Virat Kohli an unbeaten 23 off 11 as India continued to pile on the runs. India lead the five-match series 2-1.