Cricket 3 years ago

Heroic Rearguard Masks Crazy Three Hours

  • Heroic Rearguard Masks Crazy Three Hours

Pakistan v England, Second Test, Dubai 22-26 October 2015


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As with the First Test in Abu Dhabi the second match in Dubai went down to the final overs.  But unlike Abu Dhabi the umpires didn’t call time on the match due to the light, even though the ground was in complete shade.


England had come within six overs of a famous match-saving final innings, when many gave them little hope of batting out the last day for a draw.  Adil Rashid was the hero as he batted for virtually four hours before he hit his 172nd delivery straight to Zulfiqar Babar at cover point.  The poor chap was gutted yet can be proud of his performance on the final day as we should still remember his innings as a heroic one.  He was at the wicket for more than fifty-six overs, bravely supported by Stuart Broad and Mark Wood.  The latter held Pakistan at bay for almost two hours seeing out twenty-nine overs.  England had been chasing an impossible 491 to win and at 285-8 at tea on the final day there was a glimmer of hope they may be able to hold out.


But England’s failure to save the game was little to do with their second innings and everything to do with the first.


Things had been going well when Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow walked out to bat on the third day with England less than a hundred runs behind and seven wickets in hand.  What followed was a horror show and one from which they never recovered.  It is a while since England batted as a unit but there has been solidity, grit and determination about them during the past couple of years.  Someone always seems to step up and play an important knock.  This time, once Root departed they all quickly followed. 


What shouldn’t be forgotten is the fantastic spell of bowling from Wahab Riaz which contributed to England’s downfall, backed up by Yasir Shah who missed the First Test through a back injury.  On the third morning he bowled a tremendous spell, 9-5-15-3, and blew the tourists away.


England had begun so well despite Alistair Cook again calling incorrectly at the toss.  Misbah again had no hesitation in batting first and much like Abu Dhabi they ended the first day 282-4.  This time England could not point to any dropped catches but they could console themselves with having bowled well in hot conditions.  Wood, in particular was impressive, Anderson tidy, but the spinners were dealt with unmercifully by Misbah, who took fourteen off the final over of the first day from Moeen Ali to register his ninth test century.  Earlier, Shan Masood had made up for his First Test disappointment to score a half-century and Younis Khan continued his form from Abu Dhabi to do the same.  The stellar partnership of the first innings, though, was when Asad Shafiq joined his captain and they put on 104 for the fifth wicket.


Second Day


Unlike Abu Dhabi, England came out on the second morning and were irresistible.  Broad set the tone right from the very first over as he was aggressive and testing for the first four balls before trapping Misbah in front with his fifth.  Sarfraz added 52 with Shafiq before he was beaten in the flight from a Moeen Ali delivery right after a drinks break.  Wahab lasted just ten balls before he too fell to Moeen as Anderson picked up another catch.  Shafiq and Yasir had taken the score to 370-7 before Rashid tempted his opposite number into going for a shot and instead finding the edge to Stokes at slip.  Mark Wood then capped an excellent bowling performance by mopping up the last two wickets to finish with figures of 19.5-7-39-3.  Pakistan’s last three wickets had fallen for eight runs and 378 was a disappointing total for the side which had won the toss.


Cook and Moeen had put on a century opening stand at Abu Dhabi but this time Moeen lasted just eight balls as he poked one to short leg off Wahab.  His opening new ball partner, Imran then enticed the edge of Bell’s bat to set the tourists back at 14-2.  Enter Joe Root.  England’s last four defeats have come when Root has failed to reach fifty in the match and he and Cook put on a century partnership to rescue them.  Cook, following on from his epic innings in the First Test, added another 65 to his impressive tally in 2015.  Jonny Bairstow came in and battled hard with his Yorkshire team-mate to leave England well placed at the end of the second day.


Third Day


England were quite buoyant at the beginning of day three. They had worked hard to keep the hosts to less than 400 and then Cook and Root had built a decent platform.  Jonny Bairstow had also fought hard with Root on the previous evening.  When the two Yorkshire batsmen went out to bat on the third morning England were 96 behind.  Although nothing can be certain in this part of the world, they had every right to wonder if they could build a 200-250 lead to help with having to bat last on what was expected to be a wearing pitch.


The term ‘important first hour’ is an overused phrase in cricket as it is difficult to conceive of an occasion where the first hour is not important in a game.  But this time the first hour of the third day was not only important or even crucial it arguably decided the outcome of the match.


Pakistan opened up with Wahab and Yasir and there was little evidence of what was to follow in the opening overs.  Root tucked into Yasir for back-to-back boundaries before Bairstow matched him in his next over, as 19 had come off the spinner’s first three overs.  Was his back still causing him problems? Was his record so far a result of who he’d bowled to or the the pitches he’d bowled on?  We never found out the answers to those questions as the pressure on him was gradually removed as Wahab wheeled his magic from the other end.


The third ball of Wahab’s fourth over of the morning saw Root go for one drive too many and he edged to Sarfraz to fall twelve short of a much deserved hundred.  The sharp intake of breath from England’s dressing room was almost audible out in the middle and the home side knew they had created a big opportunity.


Eleven balls from Wahab later and he got one to lift outside off-stump and Stokes obliged by edging to the grateful Sarfraz.  In the previous over Bairstow had edged to Younis at first slip who appeared to get his fingers underneath the ball but the TV replays cast enough doubt to reprieve JB.


In came Buttler, desperate to end a miserable run of form.  But at the end of Wahab’s next over he was undone as the paceman went round the wicket and induced the edge from England’s wicket-keeper for the third man to fall to the Wahab/Sarfraz combination in the morning.  England were now 216-6.  They’d slumped for 10-3 off 6.3 overs.  Wahab’s spell was an incredible 3.3-3-1-3.


In his eighth over of the morning Yasir finally got in on the  act as Rashid played an awful shot, slogging straight to cover second ball.  Four balls later Bairstow, who’d had a ring-side seat at this horror show, decided he wanted to watch was further away as he was trapped in front by Yasir and England were 223-8.  Bairstow had batted for over two hours, something he’d only managed five times before in his previous thirty test innings.  His 46 was his second highest score in his past fifteen innings, something a test number five will need to improve on, dramatically.


Wahab was finally rested after a fantastic spell of 9-5-15-3, remarkable in any conditions but in heat such as this it was little short of unbelievable.  Had it been bowled by an Anderson or a Johnson we would be talking about it for many years to come, but Wahab is such an unassuming cricketer you feel he just considered it part of his job.


In Yasir’s next over Wood appeared to hit the ball into the ground for Younis to take the catch at slip.  Umpire Reiffel called for the third umpire to review it, and he declared it was a fair catch and then just to add to the comedic nature of England’s batting this morning, Wood then asked to review the review.  Needless to say the result was the same and the Durham man was making his way to the pavilion.  The innings was eventually wrapped up when Imran Khan got Anderson to edge behind to Sarfraz and 242 was the sorry sum total from a complete dismal batting display.  All seven wickets had fallen for just thirty-six runs and now they were still 136 behind and chasing an almost hopeless cause.


The rest of the day, in fact match, was now all about how many Pakistan would leave England to get and how long they’d give them to try and save the match.


Anderson struck early again as Shan Masood was caught behind for 1 in the third over.  Wood then bowled Shoaib for 7 and they were 16-2.  But Hafeez and Younis  settled things with a 67 run partnership before Wood continued his excellent match with another wicket.  Younis was then joined by Misbah and the two old-stagers just showed the class they own in buckets.  Younis went past 9,000 test runs as the two were unbeaten at the close of play both having passed their half-centuries.


Pakistan closed the third day 222-3, 358 in front.


Fourth Day


England began the penultimate day with Anderson and Wood keeping things tight, and Anderson got the breakthrough when he tempted Misbah into slapping the ball straight to Cook at mid-off without addition to his overnight total.  Asad Shafiq was next in and he continued his excellent form for the series.


Shafiq and Younis were largely untroubled in putting on 113 for the fifth wicket as Younis brought up his thirty-first test century.  Adil Rashid eventually made the breakthrough when Younis finally lost patience and his horrible mow across the line was caught by Moeen Ali for 118.  Younis’ scores in the series so far are 38, 45, 56 and 118.  This was his third test century of the year and seems to go from strength to strength.


Shafiq was finally out when Moeen had him LBW for 79.  He has had a terrific series so far, 107, 6, 83 and 79.  Misbah decided they had enough and declared, leaving England needing 491 to win.


England were left needing to bat for four and a half sessions to try and save the game when at the end of the second day they’d been dreaming of controlling the game.  Things began badly as Moeen wafted one to Younis at slip and England were 9-1.  Cook, who looked as if he was labouring with an injury either of his back or his groin, was then victim to Yasir Shah for 10 and 19-2 was a perilous position to be in.  England’s survival was now in the hands of Ian Bell and Joe Root, and they began the rebuilding.


This was the twenty-first innings for Bell since his last test century and England desperately needed him to bat through as much of the rest of the match as possible.  He just couldn’t make it to the end of the day, though, as Zulfiqar got one to bounce and Bell forgot to get his gloves out of the way with Sarfraz taking the catch.  Bell was out for 46, a decent score but his team needed more from him.  Root had already passed yet another half-century and with Bairstow again sticking around England ended the day on 130-3.  They still needed 361 but probably more realistically needed to bat out three more sessions.


Fifth Day


The final beckoned with some dread for England.  They were staring at an enormous task of having to bat out the day to try and save the game, and possibly the series, on a wearing pitch against two spinners who were in good form and with only seven wickets in hand.  There was a great moment when Root reached the career landmark of 3,000 runs from 62 innings, one less than Kevin Pietersen.  Only Sutcliffe, Compton, Hobbs, Hammond and Barrington have achieved that record if fewer innings for England.


Root and Bairstow negotiated twelve overs before Root fell to Zulfiqar as Younis took another smart chance.  Root’s 71 continued his consistent run but once again had failed to make a good score into a big one.  Five overs later and Bairstow followed him to the pavilion when Yasir bowled him for 22.  He’d batted a total of four hours in the match and had at least shown some fight, but England were now 163-5.


Buttler lasted just half an hour before Yasir made him his third victim as Younis took yet another catch.  178-6. Stokes and Rashid made it to lunch unscathed but it looked a very tall order.  Just three overs into the afternoon session and Stokes played a fairly tame shot, steering one to slip and England were now 193-7.


How much longer could England hold out, we wondered.  Broad came in and the once wary batsman had returned to his determined, dogged self and was a perfect foil for Rashid.  They stuck it out for seventy minutes before Wahab yorked Broad with a perfect inswinger.  253-8


Mark Wood joined Rashid and the two played brilliantly.  They batted out the remaining ten overs to take England to the tea break at 285-8.  For a brief moment England were allowed to wonder if they really could see this through.  With the light fading the pitches here often seem to become less volatile towards the end of the day but yet it was still a monumental task for the two batsmen to negotiate.


After tea Rashid then reached his maiden test fifty off 110 balls.  The 300 came up and the nerves were still jangling as both sides seemed to feel the tension.  At the drinks break England were now starting to threaten some records such as one of the longest fourth innings from an England team in Asia.  The fifty partnership was brought up as Wood and Rashid continued to defy the odds.


Then in the 133rd over, Wood was finally undone by one that turned and bounced from Zulfiqar and Hafeez took the catch.  Wood had batted for almost two hours and faced ninety-five balls for his 29.  It had been a wonderful example of defiance and one which few could have asked for more.  He was gutted to finally be out but in came one of the heroes of Cardiff 2009, Jimmy Anderson.  Rashid and Wood had put together the second-longest ninth wicket stand, in terms of balls faced, for England but now the hosts sensed victory again.


Wahab and Zulfiqar kept working away but Rashid kept defying them.  Then another record fell as the most balls faced by the last four batsmen in the fourth innings of a test.  Just as we were marvelling at that, Anderson turned one to leg and Shafiq couldn’t hold on as it brushed the tips of his fingers.  Next over Misbah turned to Yasir who’d had a rest.  He got one to turn first ball.


Rashid then left the next one and we were into the last six overs of the match as the ground was almost completely in shade but the light was still good enough to continue.  The third ball of Yasir’s over encouraged Rashid into the drive and he was loose enough to spoon it straight to Zulfiqar at cover and Pakistan had won the match.


Rashid was distraught, almost spurning the plaudits from his captain.  He had batted for one minute short of four hours in an unbelievable show of defiance and defence.  He faced 172 balls for his 61 but in the end England just left themselves with too much to do.


The 137.3 overs England batted is the fourth-highest by any team in the fourth innings of a Test in Asia, and the highest in a defeat.  The 176 balls faced by Rashid and Wood during their partnership is the highest by any ninth-wicket pair in the fourth innings of a Test match.


Wahab Riaz was voted man of the match, largely for his wonderful spell on the third morning which ultimately had such a bearing on knocking England out of contention for the game, it was the telling moment.  Yasir Shah’s eight wickets in the match deserved mention although England may take comfort from the fact they were able to silence him until Wahab put them on the back foot.  Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq and Asad Shafiq all scored well in both innings and of course for England there was Joe Root and Adil Rashid’s incredible last day effort.


Where England have cause for concern is with Buttler’s continued poor form, the lack of big runs from Bell, the lack of penetration from either spinner and Moeen’s two loose shots which both lead to dismissals at the top of the order, when patience was called for.


Pakistan’s 178-run winning margin was huge but that probably masked how close England had come to keeping the series level.  They will now have to go to Sharjah and win to draw a series they were very close to being in control of.

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