After four long days of Test cricket, 1,092 runs and just 16 wickets, the first Test between Pakistan and England in Abu Dhabi is plodding towards a dire draw.
While Shoaib Malik and Alastair Cook have offered up memorable innings, not once has the game threatened to move out of second gear since England’s bright start on the first morning.
At 12-1, had Ian Bell taken Mohammad Hafeez’s edge to second slip, we may well have been witnessing a different game.
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As it is, the flattest of decks in the UAE capital has served up a battle of attrition.
Neither side has scored at any great rate, while wickets have largely fallen in the evening session as tired heads begin to weigh heaviest on the batsmen.
While no-one thought this series would serve up matches finishing inside three days, like the recent Ashes series, they would have expected to see more hope of a positive result.
Thanks to the injury to Yasir Shah, England’s reluctance to collapse after Pakistan’s huge first innings total and the road at the Zayed Cricket Stadium, this match has been a non starter.
Pakistani journalist Hassan Cheema surmised that Shah would have made a difference in this match and his ability to change the course of a game has been sorely missed.
“Yasir would have changed the composition of the Pakistan bowling unit,” Cheema told Sport360. “What Misbah would have had was Zulfiqar Babar controlling one end, Yasir attacking from the other and the occasional spurt from Wahab Riaz.
— Barny Read (@BarnabyRead) October 16, 2015
“Instead, what we’ve had is Zulfiqar trying to contain and attack and Riaz trying to do the same. It has given them more responsibility than they would have wanted on this pitch.”
While Shah’s ability, variety and superb run of form in 2015 would have made him a real threat to England’s first innings reply, his potency on this wicket would have undoubtedly been less deadly.
Pakistan bowling coach – and legendary leg spinner – Mushtaq Ahmed told assembled media on Thursday that this wicket was not good for Test cricket and he was right.
With little in terms of movement off the seam, a painfully slow pitch here has neutered both teams’ bowling attacks.
Abu Dhabi is easily the least spin-friendly track in the UAE and is renowned for being slow, with three of the seven Tests here drawn.
With that being said, the last two Test matches did bring Pakistan victories, suggesting that this time around something is amiss.
One thing certainly absent is the archetypal England collapse, which became a recurring theme in 2012 when the two sides met last in the Emirates.
England’s most monumental capitulation came in Abu Dhabi during that 3-0 series whitewash, Andrew Strauss’ men being bowled out for 72 in the final innings of the match to suffer a 72-run defeat.
With just 90 overs left in this match and two innings to play if we are to get a result, the chances of a repeat performance from England seem some way off.
Instead, at some stage we will see Misbah-ul-Haq and Cook shake hands and call it a day.
It is rather disappointing for the spectators to wait two more sessions for this to happen; in the meantime, some aggression from both sides would go some way to appeasing those that have stuck out such a turgid affair for its entirety.
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