1st Test, Abu Dhabi

Pakistan v England, 2015-16

Richard Hobson


Adil Rashid was brought on for an early bowl on debut, Pakistan v England, 1st Test, Abu Dhabi, 1st day, October 13, 2015
Adil Rashid became the first England legspinner to take five wickets since 1959 © Getty Images
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Tour and tournament reports : Pakistan v England, 2015-16
Teams: England | Pakistan

At Abu Dhabi, October 13-17, 2015. Drawn. Toss: Pakistan. Test debut: A. U. Rashid.Talk of moral victories and PR defeats followed a largely turgid battle that was flattered by the final afternoon. As the clock ticked and the light faded, England's dash for runs resembled a blitz finish to a cagey game of chess. And, when dusk brought their unexpected chase to a close, the statisticians alone - swamped by facts, figures and curiosities - could feel satisfied. Paradise for them was a graveyard for bowlers, and only the flurry of late wickets, as fatigue and irresponsibility hit Pakistan, spared match referee Andy Pycroft from having to decide whether the pitch deserved to be marked "poor".

Two monumental innings dominated the scorecard. Shoaib Malik, in his first Test for more than five years, hit 245 - a unique score in Tests - in 639 minutes, and was put on a drip in the dressing-room to rehydrate. He was trumped by Cook, whose minor medical condition allowed him to retain liquid where others sweated profusely. He knuckled down to play the longest Test innings by an England batsman, and the third-longest by anyone.For 836 minutes - four short of 14 hours - he exercised supreme skill and concentration to make 263, the second-highest of his career and, like Shoaib, an unprecedented Testscore. It left only 229, 238 and 252 unclaimed among scores below 264.

Cook forced just 18 out of 528 balls to the boundary.This feat of endurance almost set up the most unlikely success. After England had declared with a first-innings lead of 75, Anderson made inroads with an exacting new-ball spell, before a direct hit by Stokes ran out the dilly-dallying Mohammad Hafeez to leave Pakistan 47 for three. Then, after tea, panic spread through their ranks. Only 16 wickets had fallen on the first four days; now they were all falling at once. With Pakistan's lead 38, Younis Khan gifted Rashid a first Test wicket with a loose drive to cover, before Asad Shafiq edged a wide one to give him a second, and Misbah-ul-Haq inexplicably tried to hit Ali over the top when his task was to bat out time. Pakistan lost their last seven wickets for 60 in 16.5 overs to the turning ball.

Having suffered the most expensive wicketless innings figures by any debutant, Rashid now claimed the first international five-for by an England wrist-spinner since Tommy Greenhough against India at Lord's in 1959. It was also the first five-wicket haul by an England leggie in Asia. The story of Lazarus seemed even-keeled by comparison. And so, from contemplating early handshakes, England needed 99 to win from a theoretical 19 overs - though they knew the light would allow little more than an hour,and Pakistan would slow things down. England promoted the hitters, while Pakistan relied on the spin of Shoaib and Zulfiqar Babar to take pace off the ball. Watched by a crowd that was not officially counted, but could not have been more than 2,000, Buttler, Ali and Stokes departed to aggressive shots in the first six overs, from which England made 35.

But, while they gave it a good go, they were always behind the rate. It felt appropriate that, when Bairstow smashed Wahab Riaz over deep midwicket for six, time was lost in retrieving the ball from an empty stand.The floodlights were switched on around 5.20, but made only a brief impact before Paul Reiffel and Bruce Oxenford called time at 5.46. Pakistan had bowled 11 overs in 58 minutes, and England were 25 runs short. The umpires had blamelessly followed their brief, using a previous light-meter reading as their guide: play had actually gone on for ten minutes longer than the day before. But, to casual followers unaware of rules, regulations and the properties of a red ball in twilight, the conclusion - or lack of one - must have seemed ridiculous.

After four and a half days of tedium, a positive finish had been denied,despite beaming floodlights and batsmen sensing glory rather than danger. And people wonder why cricket has never taken off in America.Cook said he felt disappointed rather than angry. Perhaps he would have settled for adraw at the start of the contest, given meagre preparation of two uncompetitive two-day games, and a lost toss at a venue where Pakistan had never been beaten. Yet things had already begun to go wrong for the hosts on the eve of the game, when Yasir Shah, their leg-spinner and most important bowler, suffered a back spasm in practice.They now scrambled to engineer a return to the UAE for left-arm spinner Zafar Gohar, the best of the Pakistan A slow bowlers against England in those warm-ups.

But visa complications meant he stayed put in Pakistan: it was harder for players from the so-called home side to enter the country than it was for England's.A disgruntled Misbah described the situation as "mismanagement".Pakistan had recalled Shoaib, citing outstanding one-day form, and the with-drawal of Azhar Ali (because of a foot infection reportedly picked up during a pilgrimage to Mecca) prompted his inclusion at No. 3. Fate smiled, and Shoai breached stumps on 124, not bad for a player whose most recent first-class appearance had been for Zarai Taraqiati Bank against Water and Power Development Authority ten months earlier.But his hundred was only part of the first day's tale.

Critically, England missed three clear opportunities: Bell, at second slip,dropped Hafeez on seven low to his left,then - an easier catch - Shafiq shortly before the close on ten, both off Anderson.In between, Broad had Shoaib caught off a no-ball on 40. Those three incidents were to cost 393 runs: Hafeez advanced to 98, while Shoaib and Shafiq were still together at tea the next day. Wood held his hands to the sky when he finally broke their stand of 248,though not before Shafiq had made his eighth Test hundred, all at No. 6 - from where only Garry Sobers had scored as many. Shoaib, whose last Test century had come more than six years previously in Colombo,played especially well through the leg side on a slow surface, before eventually clipping his 420th ball to Bell at midwicket, after collecting 24 fours and four sixes. Younis, meanwhile, overtook Javed Miandad as Pakistan's leading Test run-scorer when he moved to 21 in the first innings with a six over long-on off Ali, only to fall soon after to the straightest of three close fielders in an arc around short midwicket.

Three strikes in eight balls after tea on the second day gave Stokes respectable figures,but spin took a pounding in a total of 523 for eight. The 302 conceded by Rashid, Ali,Root and - in a single, desperate over of off-breaks - Stokes, was the most in a Test innings by a wicketless set of slow bowlers, beating the 275 leaked by Sri Lanka's spinners in Wellington in 1990-91. At this point, Pakistan seemed the only plausible winners, not least because England had been in the field for five draining sessions. But their own bowlers were unable to coax anything more from the lifeless track.Cook showed second ball that he was on his mettle. A defensive shot against Rahat Ali ricocheted backwards, then looped towards his stumps. Instinct prompted Cook to put out a hand, but he backed away just in time to avoid being dismissed handled the ball; it fell just wide. He barely wavered after that, and a small split in the webbing of his right little finger sustained in the field proved no handicap. Cook survived a tight review for leg-before when 101, and was dropped at 147 and 173.

Yet he swept confidently, and drove with rare assurance. He never became bogged down. Afterwards he said he had reached"a blissful state" at the crease. And, when he was eventually dismissed, to a top-edged sweep, replays showed Shoaib had no-balled, sliding his foot back in his delivery stride as if performing Michael Jackson's moonwalk.Cook's 28th Test hundred was his eighth in Asia, matching Jacques Kallis's record fora non-subcontinental batsman. He enjoyed good support. Ali saw off the new ball in a stand of 116, and Bell overcame a nervous start to help add 165, taking 134 deliveries over his fifty. Root and Stokes were more fluent. Spin finally secured a wicket with its 1,021st ball of the game, when Shoaib turned one past the advancing Stokes. Too tired and, perhaps, fed up to celebrate, he sat down and rested while the new batsman came in.Not since 1979-80, against Australia at Faisalabad, had Pakistan bowled more than 206 overs in an innings. And Shoaib was forced to toil a little longer as Cook delayed a declaration until the final morning, scarcely imagining how close his team would come to success.Man of the Match:A. N. Cook.

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