2nd Test, Dubai

Pakistan v England, 2015-16


Ben Stokes was also caught behind off Wahab Riaz, Pakistan v England, 2nd Test, Dubai, 3rd day, October 24, 2015
Wahab Riaz was at his fiery best, claimed four wickets, in the first innings of the Test Gareth Copley / © Getty Images
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Tour and tournament reports : Pakistan v England, 2015-16
Teams: England | Pakistan

At Dubai, October 22-26, 2015. Pakistan won by 178 runs. Toss: Pakistan.Perhaps even more than they realise, Pakistan have increasingly operated to the rhythms of the batting of Misbah-ul-Haq, their captain. Long periods of waiting and waiting - then,when no one expects it, striking for the kill. It could be argued that this is how they have always worked. In so many of their finest Test triumphs, they have meandered for hours,even days. And, before anyone has cottoned on to what's happening, they've won.

Note am has proved so often that the meaning of five days can actually become clear in an hour or so.It happened here on the third morning. England began it upright and calm, and ended horizontal and frazzled, having lost their last seven wickets for 36 in 18 overs - and their best chance of claiming the series. That they ultimately came so close to recovering from this kick in the guts, almost saving the Test on a delicious slow-burner of a final day, was proof of their progress and potential. Rashid so nearly became a national hero. But they had simply left themselves too much to do.By numbers, their first-innings collapse was familiar; indeed, a comprehensive history of the Pakistan-England rivalry could be based on collapses alone.

The causes were familiar, too: extreme pace atone end, quality leg-spin at the other,inevitably casting minds back to Wasim Akram and Mushtaq Ahmed in the 1992 World Cup final. The only thing missing was aural: as Wahab Riaz and Yasir Shah took six of those seven wickets, there was no sound of stumps being clattered, nor fielders screeching around the bat. Wahab took the lead role in an unbroken nine-over spell that was as remarkable for its duration as for the pace he maintained -an average of nearly 88 mph. If it was one of the cooler mornings of the series then,at just under 30 ̊C, the relief was relative:bowling that long, with such force, was superhuman.

His reward was three wickets,all caught behind by Sarfraz Ahmed, all reversing away. The big one was Root,who had guided England to 206 for three in reply to Pakistan's 378, but chased a widish one after Wahab had worked away with discipline outside off stump. Then he really cranked it up, attacking Stokes and Buttler with a fierceness recognised by those who have tracked his development since his return to the Test side in August 2014.Pakistan's coach Waqar Younis had been instrumental in that growth, insisting that Wahab needed to become the leader of the attack and worry about nothing other than bowling fast. And it was a bit of timely Waqar tinkering that helped Wahab reap the benefits. He had bowled an electric spell in Abu Dhabi, but without the same results.

Unimpressed by the lack of wickets, Waqar worked on getting his wrist more upright at release. The impact was immediate and, though he did not target the stumps in Dubai as he had in Abu Dhabi, there was greater control. The spell consigned England to a wholly inadequate total. Round these parts, once a team concede a lead as big as 136, it is almost impossible to plot a way back.Until then, they might have harboured visions of going further than the near-victory of Abu Dhabi. Just as in the First Test, England fought back - in this case from a first day that had ended with Pakistan in control.

It belonged to Misbah, who made his seventh Test century as captain, equalling the Pakistan record of Inzamam, the other great and equanimous ul-Haq. Misbah's innings was also as characteristic as it could possibly be.When he arrived to face the second ball after lunch, Pakistan - having won another toss -were 85 for three. The surface was livelier than Abu Dhabi's, but three wickets at that stage looked too many to have lost.For the umpteenth time, Misbah settled down with Younis Khan and, like sensible parents, they guided Pakistan away from trouble. Their approach, as it proved all series,was straightforward: fasting against the seamers, feasting off the spinners. Misbah scored 26 runs from 125 balls of pace, but 76 off 72 from Ali and Rashid; Younis managed 20 from 28 bowled by the spinners, and a more sedate 36 off 87 from the seamers.

So assured was Misbah, so dismissive of spin, that in the last over of the day he had no qualms in hitting Ali for two sixes and attempting two reverse sweeps, moving from 87 to 102.Pakistan closed at 282 for four, with Asad Shafiq providing the support.But it was Misbah's dismissal by the fifth ball of a superb, tone-setting over by Broad on the second morning that began England's surge. Wood, deservedly, and Ali, a little more fortuitously, reaped the spoils as Pakistan lost their last five for 44. Ali and Bell fell cheaply, but England knew a total of 378 was less imposing than it might have been. Much of that confidence lay in the form of Cook and the undoubted quality of Root, his heir apparent.

They put on 113 largely untroubled runs - although Cook, on 27, almost played on against Zulfiqar Babar, only for the bails to remain unmoved as the ball rolled on to the stumps. They also handled their first brush with Yasir impeccably, until Cook was caught at leg slip following sharp captaincy from Misbah, who set the trap and instructed Yasir to change his line.Root was exemplary and his footwork immaculate, especially against Yasir and Zulfiqar; his unobtrusive but urgent style helped him glide along. The signs that he was one of the world's finest young batsmen were unmissable: fewer tics than Steve Smith, as economically efficient as Kane Williamson, and with the presence of Virat Kohli. No wonder England stuttered when he fell on that third morning. That it was the fifth time he had fallen between 83 and 98 in 2015 seemed indicative of nothing but a statistical quirk.Once England's prize pair had been dismissed, the Test began to slip into the pattern of Pakistan's wins against Australia the previous year. Time was their only serious opponent. Younis worked his way to his 31st hundred in Tests, his tenth in 24 matches in the UAE,and an innings he had been threatening to play all series. He was inevitably partnered by Misbah, who became only the second batsman, after Andrew Flintoff against Australia at Edgbaston in 2005, to hit at least four sixes in both innings of a Test.

Pakistan declared half an hour after lunch on the fourth day, leaving England to bat out just under five sessions or 144 overs, rather than entertain thoughts of chasing down 491. In recent years,they had pulled off some great escapes - and been involved in some great near misses -but this would surely have been the greatest. Astonishingly, they got to within six and a half overs of redemption.Twice on the final day, a Pakistan triumph looked a formality: first when Root, having passed 3,000 Test runs, fell after another accomplished fifty (his 12th in 2015, the most by an England player in a calendar year, beating Keith Fletcher in 1973); then, after Broad was eighth out, bowled by Wahab, with 41 overs left. Yet, in cahoots with Wood, Rashid got his head down. On a fifth-day pitch, they batted for 29.2 overs, a Test record for the ninth wicket in the fourth innings.

Rashid's was a dual-purpose effort, designed to save a Test and atone for his horror swipe against Yasir two days earlier.The surface had not crumbled as Pakistan hoped, and Rashid read the spinners with ease, playing them with firmness of intent and great restraint. So it was a surprise when,with 39 deliveries left, the sun setting and a close circle of fielders lying in wait, he drove at Yasir. Who knows why he chose that of all options, but he hit it straight to Zulfiqar at cover, one of two men in the outfield. Thus ended four hours of resistance, in which England's last four had faced 322 balls, another fourth-innings Test record. Even so, Cook- still stung by his side's first-innings surrender - admitted they probably hadn't deserved"to get out of jail". As Pakistan celebrated their largest Test win over England in terms of runs, Yasir wheeled away and belly flopped, football-style. It was his eighth wicket of the Test. But,as the destination of the match award suggested, the three Wahab had taken on the third morning were the wickets that turned the game.
Man of the Match: Wahab Riaz.

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