In a Wednesday that saw control move from one team to the other and back, Pakistan ended Day 2 of the 1st Test against England on 288/7 with a lead of 192.
Misbah-ul-Haq, the captain who has brought discipline back to Pakistan cricket, was not about to forego a perfect opportunity for an attritional day. There was a Test to be won and he was determined to win it slowly. The stadium was virtually empty and he seemed of a mind to empty it further. He might prove to be a wise old bird.
Misbah is a batsman to slow a heartbeat. He is also a captain to calm a nation. His drip-feed innings enabled Pakistan to negotiate the second new ball, but it did not quite make the match safe. He had plodded to 52 in nearly three-and-a-quarter hours when Graeme Swann won an lbw decision, via the review system, in the penultimate over of the day. It was appropriate that his final shot was a studious defensive push.
His departure filled England with fresh resolve. They immediately grabbed another wicket in the final over, James Anderson's late swing proving too much for Abdur Rehman. Pakistan's lead at the close was 96, but in such favourable batting conditions England could be satisfied at taking seven wickets in the day.
Only once in the past 20 years have England won a Test after making less than 200 in the first innings of a match. They bowled with great discipline in the last two sessions and stifled Pakistan, but Saeed Ajmal's career-best 7 for 55 has left them with a monumental task.
Misbah's main ally was Mohammad Hafeez, who has played only two Test innings against England and has narrowly missed a hundred on each occasion. The first time, at The Oval in 2006, Pakistan refused to play in protest of ball-tampering allegations and England won by a forfeit. There were times when another Pakistan forfeit seemed to be England's only chance of getting out of this one.
Hafeez' 88 spanned four hours. He had a century for the taking when he swept in ungainly fashion at a floated delivery from Graeme Swann and was struck on the boot. He opted for the DRS in the belief that he might have got outside the line, but umpire Bruce Oxenford's decision was narrowly upheld.
Swann's two wickets provided a necessary lift. His personal battle with Ajmal is expected to be one of the decisive duels of the series and Ajmal's seven wickets, perhaps five of them gifted by England's batsmen, invited excessive expectations on a sedate pitch. He was in his 14th over when Hafeez fell and his previous over had disappeared for 13, including a slog-sweep for six by the same batsman.
England's challenge in the first session rested with Stuart Broad. Taufeeq might have been run out on 38 when Ian Bell, from square leg and with one stump to aim at, narrowly missed. Instead, Broad struck 21 overs into the second day when Taufeeq was bowled by an excellent delivery from around the wicket that held its line to strike off stump.
Broad's emotions had swirled quite differently the previous ball. Hafeez, on 52, mishooked a bouncer towards short midwicket where Chris Tremlett made ponderous progress, dived and dropped it. Broad flashed one of his Draco Malfoy looks and it was a wonder that Tremlett did not turn to stone. Perhaps Broad imagined that he already had.
There was much of Malfoy in Broad's morning. There normally is. Andrew Strauss is a captain who has learned to resist Broad's glowers whenever he wants an appeal referred to the third umpire. In his second over of the morning, he nipped one back to strike Hafeez on the pad, but Strauss resisted his overtures and the television replay proved him right.
Ten minutes from lunch, Broad nipped one back to Younis Khan, still on nought, and pressed Strauss to refer the lbw appeal. The captain smiled benignly. The replay showed the ball was too high. As one observer has memorably observed, Broad indulges in L'Oreal appeals - because he is worth it. Broad's second wicket, Azhar Ali, came earlier in the same over, a hint of away movement enough to find the outside edge.
Dubai was a world away from the first Test of the last series between these sides: Trent Bridge 2010, where the ball hooped around for England's swing bowlers and Pakistan were hustled out in no time for 182 and 80 on their way to a 354-run defeat.
England have nine players remaining from that Test, Ian Bell and Chris Tremlett being the only additions; Pakistan have nine missing, all bar Umar Gul and Azhar. The restructuring of Pakistan's Test side has gone far beyond the replacement of the three players jailed for spot-fixing. Salman Butt's Pakistan has been virtually scrubbed from memory.
England had a bonus shortly before tea, when Jonathan Trott cut one back sharply to have Younis lbw, so adding him to Jaharul Islam, of Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka's Tharanga Paranavitana as one of his three Test victims.
England only collected one wicket with the second new ball, Jimmy Anderson having Asad Shafiq caught at the wicket, when they needed to turn the match. Misbah nudged here, nurdled there and pulled a few faces. The scoring rate fell from 3.5 runs per over in the morning to barely two in the final session. But England got him in the end and will believe this Test is not over yet.