England’s pursuit of famous victory cut short by bad light
Alistair Cook’s side stopped 25 runs short of improbable first Test win against Pakistan
Joe Root and Ian Bell leave the field after bad light cut England’s pursuit of the 99 needed to win the first Test against Pakistan short. Photograph: Getty
England fell 25 agonising runs short, and had to settle for a draw after all, when bad light halted their attempt to chase 99 for an improbable victory in the first Test against Pakistan.
An uncompromising, attritional contest suddenly came to life at the Zayed Cricket Stadium — where first James Anderson took two wickets in five balls with the new ball and then Adil Rashid added five for 64 on debut to bowl the hosts out for 173.
Then trying to grab an opportunity largely created by Alastair Cook’s own 14-hour 236, the captain sent in his bigger hitters with a maximum 19 overs left.
Predictably, though, only 11 were possible before England’s best efforts under lights had to end on 74 for four.
After Cook declared in mid-morning on 598 for nine, Pakistan began their second innings 75 runs behind but in little apparent danger on a pitch which had been unresponsive for four days.
They were in immediate trouble on three for two yet still seemed sure to close out the stalemate on the back of captain Misbah-ul-Haq’s half-century.
Instead, wickets continued to fall — including seven in 20 overs after tea — as nerves began to shred and England’s spinners took the last five for 14 runs in five overs.
England had a maximum 19 overs to complete their mission improbable, and go 1-0 up in this three-match series — but fading light meant it was highly likely significantly fewer would be bowled.
So it proved.
After Jos Buttler, promoted to open with Moeen Ali, then his partner and Ben Stokes too were sacrificed attempting to ignite the chase, Yorkshire pair Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow kept England hopes alive.
But Bairstow was stumped aiming high at Zulfiqar Babar, and the desert dusk sunk the tourists.
Anderson had earlier defied expectations with the new ball, somehow finding enough life in a pitch apparently bereft from the outset, to see off Shan Masood and Shoaib Malik for just a single between them.
Opener Masood, bounced out by Anderson on the first morning when he was bowled off his helmet grille, pushed a delivery down into his crease on the back-foot defence and realised too late that the ball was heading back towards his stumps.
Masood’s failure first time round was followed by Shoaib’s double-century, on his return to Test cricket after a five-year absence.
In his second attempt, though, the number three could not even see out the over before fending extra bounce from a short ball for an unmissable catch to short-leg.
England sensed an outside chance to shred more nerves — which could have been the only explanation for Mohammad Hafeez’s early-afternoon misjudgment.
He set off for an unnecessary single off Rashid to cover, where Stokes pounced on mid-pitch hestitation — picking up with his right hand, transferring to his left and unleashing a direct hit with Hafeez well short of his ground.
Younus Khan began his innings with 17 deliveries on nought, and Misbah was characteristically content to dead-bat England for much of his 111-ball 51.
There were no more wickets before tea — despite a curious close call for Misbah on 19 when he survived an umpire’s call for height against Anderson, an element which kicked in because Bruce Oxenford initally ruled out not for lbw but erroneously for a pad-bat catch at gully.
It then seemed only belated relief and consolation for Rashid, courtesy of Younus, when the leg-spinner at last had a maiden wicket in his 45th over on debut.
His former Yorkshire team-mate helped to improve his figures infinitely when he did not get to the pitch of a leg-break and skied to mid-off five short of his 50.
Rashid, confidence growing, was soon a bowler transformed — and had Asad Shafiq caught-behind off another leg-break.
Misbah still appeared to be going nowhere, until he was bowled charging Moeen — leaving ajar a door which England barged through.
A wicket appeared possible every ball for the spinners.
Wahab Riaz gloved Moeen to short-leg; then Anderson’s brilliant, low left-handed catch at first slip off Rashid was confirmed after much video evidence to see off Zulfiqar.
Sarfraz Ahmed was also held by Anderson at slip off the leg-spinner — and when last man Imran Khan went the same way, England’s sprint in the dark was on.
They had begun the day by adding 29 runs for the loss of one tailend wicket, in 50 minutes of batting.
With Rashid gone, bowled when Imran Khan snaked the ball back through his loose drive, Cook decided last pair Anderson and Stuart Broad were better deployed with ball rather than bat.
It turned out his sums were bang on, but time would eventually still beat him.