In another ideal day for batsmen to plunder massive scores, Alastair Cook displayed a perfect exhibition of Test match batting to enable England take a 46-run lead at the end of the 4th day. Even though it was a lifeless surface, Cook was a portrayal of endurance and ruthlessness as he left the Pakistani bowler who had collectively bowled over 196 overs, with exasperation at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
However, it was not smooth sailing for the other England batsmen in the series opener. Left-arm quick Wahab Riaz evoked brief memories of his coach Waqar Younis in a stunning bowling performance on a practically impossible pitch. Taking the pitch out of the equation with his uninhibited pace and impeccable temperament, Riaz constantly troubled every batsmen.
Resuming at 290/3, Cook and Joe Root began with diligence as they looked set on accumulating runs and carry England to a comfortable position. Riaz started the day and almost managed to prise out the England captain with an in-swinger that jagged back alarmingly. But, wicket-keeper Sarfaraz Ahmed could not cling on the catch despite diving to his right.
After surviving a close lbw shout against Imran Khan, Root formed a definitive partnership with Cook who was piling on the runs at the other end. Both of them continued to heap agony on a deflated Pakistani bowling attack.
Cook reached his 3rd double-century in Tests with a glance off Wahab and seemed to be in no mood to relent. At lunch, England were safely placed at 400/3.
Immediately after lunch, Root was rapped on the pads by a slider from Zulfiqar Babar. But, Pakistan having used up all their reviews had to contend with the umpire’s decision. When it looked like a century was inevitable, the 24-year old Yorkshire-man chased a wide delivery from Rahat Ali only to edge it Sarfaraz who completed a fine catch.
Sensing an opening, Misbah brought back his spearhead Riaz to give Jonny Bairstow a warm welcome. With a 60-over old ball, Wahab suddenly found reverse-swing and began reeling off one vicious delivery after another.
Having grown up on the lush outfields of Headingley, Bairstow looked like a "fish out of water" as he struggled to counter an inspired spell from Riaz. He was put out of his misery when a fierce in-dipper from Riaz crashed on to his pads. After an unsuccessful review, he trudged back to the pavilion with disappointment.
Meanwhile at the other end, Cook carried on with his work and negated Riaz with solid defiance. Even though he frequently offered advice to Ben Stokes, the seam-bowling allrounder endured a hard time at the crease.
After seeing off Riaz somehow, Stokes unveiled his signature style of counter-attacking hitting with a flurry of boundaries. Upon reaching his half-century, he lost his concentration as he danced down the track to the part-time spin of Shoaib Malik and was bowled after attempting an almighty heave. After 335 overs, a spinner had at last scalped a wicket.
When it seemed that there was a triple-ton for the taking, a visibly tired Cook finally ran out of patience as he was caught by Shan Masood while executing a sweep off Malik. A monumental innings which had consumed 528 balls was halted for 263.
Zulfiqar Babar eventually nabbed a wicket after a small matter of 68.5 overs. The 36-year old Babar’s unending toils were rewarded when Jos Buttler provided catching practice to Asad Shafiq who gleefully accepted it.
England ended the day at 569/8. With a lead of only 46 runs and only a day to play, it would take a miracle to force a result on this surface.
Pakistan 523/8 Declared; England 569/8 (Cook 263, Root 85, Riaz 3-116, Malik 2-97)
Cook now has the longest test innings ever played by an English batsman. Breaking the 1938 record held by Len Hutton pic.twitter.com/F82FYX4GG1— Test Match Special (@bbctms) October 16, 2015