Abu Dhabi: Pakistan’s declaration duly arrived in a flurry of cross-batted strokes as four wickets tumbled in six overs after tea. Mark Wood broke their record fifth-wicket stand of 248 in the first over after tea when he trapped Asad Shafiq lbw without addition to his score of 107, and when Shoaib Malik succumbed to a tired mow across the line to fall for a Test-best 245, the end was only a matter of time.
The catcher at short midwicket was none other than Ian Bell, who moments earlier had taken a leading edge off Sarfraz Ahmed, again off the bowling of Ben Stokes. Those two catches could not atone for his lapses in the slips on the first day, when he had reprieved both Shafiq and Mohammad Hafeez, but it did enable England to reach the end of their long toil in the field. Two overs later, Zulfiqur Babar swung acorss the line to hand Stokes his fourth of the innings, leaving England to face 23 overs before the close.
The series isn’t yet two days old, but England’s fielders went to tea on the second afternoon in Abu Dhabi feeling as though they had been buried by the sands of time.
A remarkable double-century for Shoaib Malik, playing his first Test innings in more than five years, was the highlight of a run-laden afternoon that also featured a Pakistan record for the fifth wicket in Tests against England, an eighth Test century for Asad Shafiq, and an unwanted slice of history for the debutant legspinner, Adil Rashid.
By tea, Malik had marched along to 231 not out, an astonishing return for a man who might not have got a look-in had Azhar Ali been fit. Alongside him, Shafiq was sitting pretty on 107. Both men survived notable moments of good fortune on the first day of the contest but since resuming on Pakistan’s overnight 286 for 4, they hadn’t offered a sniff of a chance all day.
Their partnership stood at an imposing 248, beating the 197-run stand at Lord’s between Javed Burki and Nasim-ul-Ghani that had stood since 1962. And the man who bore the brunt of their onslaught was Rashid, who went to tea with figures of 0 for 160, currently the worst by a debutant in Test history.
Ominously for Rashid, his performance had usurped another legspinner in the record books, and there were distinct shades of Bryce McGain’s forlorn debut at Cape Town in March 2009, particularly when Malik, with the insouciance of a man in utter command of the attack and the conditions, opened his shoulders to wallop him over extra cover for four before pumping his next delivery clean down the ground for the third of his three sixes.
There is still an opportunity for McGain to reclaim his place in history, of course, if Rashid can claim a scalp at any stage before Pakistan’s inevitable declaration, and with that in mind, the debut of a certain SK Warne springs to mind. His debut figures of 1 for 150 at Sydney in 1992 included the maiden wicket of Ravi Shastri, but not before he had made 206.
Rashid, in truth, did not bowl especially badly, having been re-introduced to the attack in the seventh over of the day. By that stage, the seamers – armed with a ball that was just three overs old at the start of play – had been effortlessly repelled, and there was never an opportunity to get a toe-hold in the game.
Pakistan are past masters of batting in the UAE, having developed an innings tempo that is perfectly suited to the brutal conditions. They were content to wear England’s bowlers down for hours on end before latching onto the opportunities to make their dominance count. Between them, Shoaib and Shafiq struck 34 fours and three sixes, 154 runs in boundaries, a testament to their patience and ability to cash in.
The mid-afternoon featured a race to see which of the two batsmen would reach their landmark first. Malik duly pipped his team-mate to the post by nurdling James Anderson through the gully for two before dropping to his knees to perform the sajdah in gratitude for an extraordinary tale of redemption for a man who appeared to have been consigned to Test history on the last tour of England in 2010. One over later, Shafiq joined him on three figures, sweeping Rashid fine for four before taking off his helmet and kissing the badge,
Despite having six front-line bowlers to call upon, Alastair Cook was forced reluctantly to turn to a seventh after 124 overs of fruitless toil when Joe Root was tossed the ball for an exploratory spell of allsorts, and they effectively used an eighth when Ben Stokes entered the attack with his hitherto unseen offbreaks in the final over before the break.