England pay for dropped chances as Shoaib ton puts Pakistan on top

Joy Chakravarty 20:53 13/10/2015
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Shoaib Malik led the fightback with his third Test century.

Pakistan turned around what looked like a nightmare start to their Test series against England, completely dominating the visitors with a battling batting performance.

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At Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, Pakistan survived two early jolts – one of them even before the coin was tossed – before reaching 286 for four.

Shoaib Malik, making a comeback into the Test squad after a gap of five years, scored his third Test century – and added 167 runs for the second wicket with Mohammad Hafeez, who missed a second successive century in Abu Dhabi.

And there was immense joy for veteran Younis Khan, who became the most successful batsman in the history of Pakistan Test cricket, overtaking the Javed

Misbah-ul Haq’s luck with the toss continued and that enabled Pakistan to pursue what has become a winning formula – bat the opposition out of the match. However, in the context of this Test match, it became almost mandatory that they batted well, especially after losing their star leg-spinner Yasir Shah.

The 29-year-old could not recover from the back injury he sustained while bowling at the nets on Monday, and was ruled out.

And then, Shan Masood, who scored a century in Pakistan’s last Test innings against Sri Lanka at Pallekele, could not provide them the start they wanted. The opener was completely befuddled by a slower bouncer from James Anderson, and as he took his eyes off the ball, it hit him on the helmet and ricocheted on to his stumps.

At 5-1 and both Anderson and Stuart Broad bowling well in the only hour of the day that gives some encouragement to the fast bowlers, there was a real chance for England to stamp their authority on the match.

That would have been the case had Ian Bell held on to a simple catch of Mohammad Hafeez in the second slip in Anderson’s fifth over. The batsman was on seven then and the total on 12.

It proved a costly miss as Hafeez (98, 170b, 13×4) consolidated the innings with Shoaib Malik (124 not out, 230b, 13×4), before missing out on a ninth Test century.

That brought in Younis Khan (38, 57b, 3×4, 1×6), who needed 19 runs to overtake Miandad and he did that in great style, hoisting Moeen Ali for the first six of the match when on 15. There was another milestone to be reached, and when on 25, Younis became the only player to score 2,000 Test runs on the UAE soil.

Younis batted with extremely positive intent, stepping out to spinners and even reverse-sweeping Moeen on several occasion. But the veteran fell to England’s trap, when he flicked Broad straight to captain Alastair Cook at short mid-on, placed almost next to the umpire.

Malik, who was making a comeback into the Test side after a gap of five years, made the most of his good form, and it was a chanceless knock barring one lucky escape.

When on 40, Broad bowled two fantastic back-to-back deliveries that made him look more like a chess grand master plotting his move. He bowled a brilliant in-swinging yorker that Malik barely managed to dig out, and then followed it up with a pitched-up out-swinger. Malik had a go and edged the ball straight to Joe Root in the gully. However, TV replay found that Broad had overstepped the crease.

Malik showed great patience against the pace bowlers, but was aggressive against the spinners, not letting them settle into any kind of rhythm as he continuously used his feet to good effect.

Four runs after Younis’ dismissal, on 251, Pakistan lost Misbah to what looked like a contentious caught behind decision given by the third umpire S Ravi. Misbah seemed certain he did not edge the Anderson delivery to Jos Buttler, but had to go for three.

Bell was the culprit again when he dropped Asad Shafiq two overs before close of play. It was even simpler chance, and Anderson was the bowler to suffer one more time.

Anderson (two for 29 in 14 overs) was the pick of England bowlers, but the worrying thing for Cook was the ineffectiveness of spinners Moeen and Adil Rashid, who was given his Test debut.

Given the conditions, the seamers were always going to bowl in short bursts of 4-5 overs, and the bulk of bowling was left to the spinners. But neither did they take any wicket, but more importantly, they weren’t able to contain runs, which was important to build up the pressure. Both Moeen and Adil combined for 36 overs and gave away 149 runs.

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