England almost secured what would have been a famous victory, as bad light saw them 25 runs short of the 99 they needed to chase down. Tom Sizeland reports from Abu Dhabi.
The first four days saw a battle of patience and persistence from the players and spectators alike, as 16 wickets fell in the blazing heat. Day five was a completely different story, as 15 wickets went down in a remarkable day’s cricket that no-one would have expected.
The declaration didn’t come overnight as England looked to get as many runs as they could with the two wickets they had remaining in the morning session. They settled for 598-9. Victory looked a near-impossible task.
The total gave them 75 runs to work with before Pakistan could head into a second innings lead, and the visitors couldn’t have wished for a better start, as Jimmy Anderson had them on 3-2. The ball trickled on to Shan Masood’s stumps, before a brilliant short ball then removed Shoaib Malik for a duck, making his 245 the highest score with a duck in the same Test.
Mohammad Hafeez (34) was then brilliantly run out by Ben Stokes, but it was the partnership between Younis Khan and Misbah ul-Haq that took the wind out of England’s sails, as they knuckled down and put together 66, before Khan needlessly gave away his wicket for 45 to hand Rashid his first Test wicket.
Rashid took another wicket to give his side a sniff, and within minutes it was more than a sniff, as he ripped through the lower order. The game suddenly burst into life.
The final five wickets fell for just 14 runs, with Rashid responsible for three of them to secure his five-for. An incredible turnaround, considering he bowled the worst figures on debut in Test history in the first innings. Pakistan bowled out for 173, England needing 99 to win.
The visitors had 19 overs to chase it down, but bad light was always going to play its part. Pakistan strode out gingerly to the field, time-wasting at every possible opportunity. In the end it worked. Moeen, Buttler and Stokes all lost their wickets cheaply, but Root and Bairstow gave their side a fighting chance. The floodlights came on as the sun departed over the horizon. With eight overs remaining in the day, the light reading gave Pakistan the moment they were waiting for, as the umpires called it a day.
In the end the match will go down as an epic contest thanks to England’s hunger and desire on the final day. The pitch in Dubai in the second Test – which gets underway on Thursday – will hopefully provide a bit more for the bowlers in the first few days. Either way, the momentum is with the English, who have already improved on their 3-0 defeat here four years ago.
Cook got Man of the Match honours, but both Malik and Cook deserved to share it for the way in which they went about their work. Malik probably wouldn’t even have played if it weren’t for an injury to regular No 3 Azhar Ali. To come in after a five-year absence from the Test side and produce that type of knock was nothing short of remarkable. Cook broke several records in his 263. It was the third longest Test innings of all time, and it was by far the best score by an Englishman in Asia, surpassing Mike Gatting’s 207 against India in 1985.
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