At Sharjah, November 1-5, 2015. Pakistan won by 127 runs. Toss: Pakistan.A half-hour cab ride from Dubai to Sharjah feels like a trip from one world to another.Glamorous high-rises give way to modest flats, bright lights to pink neon, and expat hangouts to subcontinental bustle. England had never played a Test here, but instead of being inspired, they found themselves retelling a hoary tale They were in touch with Pakistan until the fourth afternoon, but disintegrated as if in homage to their previous tour of the UAE, in 2011-12, when their batsmen could scarcely leave their hotel rooms without wondering whether the corridors would take spin.
Now, as Pakistan celebrated a 2-0 triumph and briefly climbed to second in the Test rankings,Cook's team reflected on a series that had continually tantalised them but ultimately reinforced stereotypes about western batsmen in Asia.Though they refused to feel sorry for themselves, their hard-luck narrative - deprived of victory in Abu Dhabi and of a draw in Dubai - took further sustenance from a series-clinching century by Mohammad Hafeez.
Early in Pakistan's second innings, he was given out caught behind off Anderson for two, only to be saved by a review. If the unsatisfactory absence of Hot Spot and Snicko meant the overrule by TV umpire Paul Reiffel was less than clear-cut, then the effect on the game was clarity itself. Hafeez went on to an accomplished 151, before England folded with fin de series decadence.As during the first two Tests, it was the difference between the teams' spinners that tookits toll. While Yasir Shah, Zulfiqar Babar and Shoaib Malik managed 17 wickets for 313 and conceded only 2.34 runs an over between them, the English trio lagged behind inevery respect: Moeen Ali, Rashid and Patel took seven for 423 and leaked 3.66. Most galling for England was the manner in which their batsmen allowed Shoaib, with only 25 wickets from 34 Tests, to harvest career-best match figures of seven for 59.
As if his first-innings figures of four for 33, also a personal-best, had scratched some significant itch, heannounced his Test retirement that evening. English hopes of squaring the series had taken an early nosedive when Misbah-ul-Haq won his third toss in a row and offered a half-apologetic hand to an unamused Cook. Selection had been geared towards batting first: Mark Wood was rested because of his fragile left ankle, so Patel came in for his first Test in nearly three years to provide someleft-arm spin and batting depth; Jos Buttler's miserable form meant the gloves passed to Bairstow, while James Taylor returned to Tests for the first time since his disparagement by Kevin Pietersen in 2012.
But it was the seamers who gave England a chance. Anderson drew level with Shaun Pollock on 421 Test wickets - joint-eighth in the all-time list - when he had Azhar Ali caught behind, and would finish a triumphant first day with 15.1-7-17- 4. Thirteen overs from Broad, who at one stage sent down 48 successive dot balls, yielded an equally miserly two for 13. Pre-Test warnings that the pitch would offer less seam movement than the pitiless Sheikh Zayed Road that connects Abu Dhabi and Sharjah via Dubai were forgotten.
Moeen Ali induced miscues from Hafeez and Sarfraz Ahmed, but Patel's two wickets - bounce to undo Asad Shafiq, turn to bowl Wahab Riaz - provided a different kind ofwarning: England would be batting last. Without Misbah's typically quirky 71 (of which 62 came from the spinners), Pakistan would not have scraped even 234, though a slowoutfield disguised the total's true worth.England's response contained more grunt work than panache, yet their hopes of adecisive lead needed a combination of both.
Cook made a gritty 49 to take his Test tally in2015 to 1,294, surpassing Graham Gooch (1,264 in 1990) as the most by an England captain in a calendar year, but fell for the third time in a row to Yasir. Bell seemed stifled by responsibility, scoring only 16 during a painful session between lunch and tea, and finishing with one of a quartet of neither-here-nor-there forties. It needed Taylor, as alert as a pickpocket in a souk, and Bairstow (rarely at ease on a pitch that had turned on the first day) to shepherd the total to a promising 222 for four at stumps.
Since Stokes was uncertain to bat - but certain not to bowl - after injuring his right shoulder attempting a typically wholehearted catch on the first afternoon, day three loomed as pivotal to England's chances. But Taylor could add only two to his overnight 74 before poking at Rahat Ali, back in the side after Imran Khan split the webbing in his bowling hand two days before the game; and Bairstow, who himself had added only six, cut a delivery from Zulfiqar that hurried on. Patel batted pleasantly for 42, but Yasir bowled him with a delivery that recalled Warne to Gatting in 1993, and encouraged similar apprehension in the England dressing-room. Stokes's plucky emergence at No. 11 could extend the lead only to 72.
It was no more than a basis for negotiation. The suspicion was that Anderson and Broad would have to perform like a pair of Atlases once more. After Hafeez's early escape, Pakistan's openers settled down to contribute their first meaningful stand of the series, though with Azhar in place of the misfiring Shan Masood.By the time he fell victim to one of Hafeez's head-in-the-clouds calls for a single, Pakistan were 29 in front. Anderson, immaculate once more, found some reverse to snare Shoaib, and Broad repeated the trick against Younis Khan shortly before stumps.
Early on thefourth morning, when England wore black arm bands following the death of Tom Graveney, Anderson bowled nightwatchman Rahat. Pakistan were, in effect, 80 for four. The series was salvageable.Hafeez, so often out shone by Younis and Misbah, moved front and centre. Having survived a stumping chance on 97 in the day's first over (neither he nor Bairstow managed to pick Rashid's googly), he dominated a fifth-wicket stand of 93 with his captain, and had made 151 out of 257 by the time he launched Moeen Ali to long-on.
Again, England hada glimmer: 185 behind, four wickets to take. But Pakistan knew how to stay ahead: the diligent Shafiq and the energetic Sarfraz ensured the final reckoning would be 284 in 112overs, 75 more than England had ever made in the fourth innings to win a Test in Asia. Anderson and Broad deserved better for a combined match analysis of 77.1-29-126-11. Moeen Ali's experimental stint as an opener came to a tame end when - having been clattered on the back of the helmet by Wahab - he didn't get forward to one from Shoaib that kept low. Shoaib then bowled Bell from round the wicket with a ball that behaved perfectly but still exposed Bell's timidity.
Cook and Root were in occupation at the start of the final day, but England required a further 238.Hope evaporated under the morning sun. Root played back to Yasir and was hit in line with leg, Taylor edged Zulfiqar to slip, Bairstow misjudged a sweep, and Patel was pinnedin front: four for 11 in 31 balls, or - taking in the evening before - six for 25. The eight runs contributed by Nos 3-7 equalled England's worst such effort, at Sydney in 1886-87.On that occasion, a team led by Arthur Shrewsbury were bowled out for 45 - and won.But Sharjah was in no mood for a miracle. Cook and Rashid restored some decorum with a stand of 49, but the end came soon after lunch. Cook was close to becoming the first Englishman to carry his bat for 19 years, before he was stumped off Shoaib. Close, but - in a region that prefers the hookah - no cigar. And, for England, that summed up the series.
Man of the Match:Mohammad Hafeez.Man of the Series:Yasir Shah