6 Feb 2012

England cricketers battling to avoid series whitewash in Dubai

5:57 am on 6 February 2012

England's opening batsmen safely negotiated the final hour's play to close day three of the third and final cricket test against Pakistan on 36 without loss, chasing 324 to win, after Azhar Ali's mammoth innings of 157 put the hosts in a dominant position in Dubai.

Pakistan should have had an early breakthrough as Alastair Cook edged a simple chance off the bowling of Umar Gul but opening batsman Taufeeq Umar put it down at third slip.

Andrew Strauss also had a hairy moment - a review of the bowling off Mohammed Hafeez saw the ball strike the bat and pad simultaneously but the impact was outside the line and Simon Taufel's original not out call remained.

Ali's stay at the crease - he faced 424 balls over 533 minutes for his 157 runs - was finally ended as he turned a Graeme Swann delivery straight to Cook at short leg, who took a good catch just above the earth.

Those in the sparse crowd rose to applaud his knock - his highest in first-class cricket.

Pakistan finished with 365.

If England are to survive a 3-nil series whitewash, which would be Pakistan's first against them, they will have to make the second-highest total to win a test match in their history - only the 332 they scored in 1928 to beat Australia in Melbourne would be better.