Perhaps England had become a little confused after seeing batsmen being granted a second chance during the rather farcical warm-up match last week. One of the scorecards in Sharjah had them taking 12 wickets in an innings, but it was not one of the elements they would have wanted to bring into the Test match.

Instead, before the midway point on the opening day of the series they had gifted both Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik second lives.

Hafeez, on 7, edged James Anderson, who was in the middle of a new-ball spell that was threatening to transcend the conditions, to Ian Bell at second slip who shelled it low to his left.

Then, after lunch, with the heat of the day approaching its fiercest, Malik, on 40, chased a full delivery from Stuart Broad without any footwork and the thick edge was this time taken neatly by Joe Root at around third slip. England's relief was clear in their celebrations, but then came the replay. Broad had nothing behind the front line. Of all the places to bowl a no-ball.

Just to cap the day, Asad Shafiq was given a life in the penultimate over when Bell grassed an easier chance off Anderson who, quite rightly, looked fit to burst a gasket, if only he had the energy to do so.

Between England's two matches against Pakistan A, the assistant coach Paul Farbrace had stressed the importance of taking every chance. Four catches went down in the first practice match - including Iftikhar Ahmed who gave a warning of what it can cost when he was missed on 11 and finished unbeaten on 92 - and a couple more went down in the second game.

England had a small window of opportunity in the morning. Pakistan, not least their captain Misbah-ul-Haq, were flustered by the late withdrawal of Yasir Shah with a back injury with Misbah expressing his frustration at not have a replacement spinner available in the 16-man squad.

Then Shan Masood got into a horrible tangle against an Anderson short ball, which he deflected into his stumps off the grille, which meant that Malik, in his first Test for five years and having to fill the sizeable void at No. 3 left by Azhar Ali's injury, was in for the seventh over. Another quick wicket and England would have had a chance to target the prolific Younis Khan at No. 4 with the ball still reasonably hard. With Bell's drop, which would have left Pakistan 12 for 2, that chance also went begging.

Bell had a strange summer with his catching. He had a poor time against New Zealand, emerged from England's Desert Spring camp to snaffle them like flies in the first Ashes Test in Cardiff, before missing an edge off Steven Smith at Lord's when the batsman had 50 - he would finish with 215.

Catches will always be dropped, but the pain of some will linger for a lot longer. Ultimately, the one off Hafeez cost 91 runs until Ben Stokes had him lbw for 98 moving too far across his stumps moments before tea. We await to see how costly Shafiq's left-off will be.

After the day he had, Bell may be pondering whether he made the right call over the retirement thoughts which entered his head during the Ashes series. "He's very disappointed in the changing room now," Broad said. "That first one was a tough catch, low left are always quite tricky, but the last one he'd expect to take 99 out of 100."

However, he was not alone in making a painful error and, in many ways, there are fewer excuses for being denied wickets by over-stepping. It is not a new problem for England. This was the sixth time in the year they have had a celebration halted: it has cost Mark Wood and Steven Finn twice, Stokes once and now Broad.

"I said sorry at tea to the guys because we don't need to be having any chalked off here," Broad said. "As a bowler you have to hold your hand up but I had no inclination that I was close. When the umpire put his arm out I was pretty gutted."

With umpires standing further back they are verging on the side of only calling no-balls when they are obviously over, the theory being that, as in the case of Broad today, they can always check if there is wicket off one they believe is tight, whereas you can't reverse an incorrect no-ball call if it brings a wicket which then does not count.

There is a belief that this means bowlers aren't being given a quiet nod when they are getting close to the line in the way they used to. Broad suggested the idea of having umpires at net sessions to provide more feedback. Finn, after his problems in the summer, came to the defence of the umpires when it was suggested they should do more to assist bowlers, explaining that the position of his hips in delivery stride blocks off the view of the front line for the officials.

Really, though, international bowlers should not need their hand holding. The line never moves. Why push it so close, even to start with? It is a thought that England's weary players may well have been pondering when Malik steered Broad wide of slip to bring up his third Test hundred. By the close, he was still there on 124 meaning the three errors so far have cost England a combined 176 runs.

There is a chance to fight back, and England did not wilt, in what Broad termed the toughest conditions he had played in, as Cook's innovative field helped remove Younis then Misbah fell to a debatable DRS moment. But in a series where it was clear from the outset that everything would need to go nigh-on perfectly for them to have a chance England have already made life harder for themselves.

Courtesy: ESPN