Adil Rashid’s heroics proved agonisingly in vain as England’s great escape faltered at the last against Pakistan in Dubai.
No 8 Rashid batted almost throughout the final two sessions of the second Test, but, ultimately, to no avail as the tourists were bowled out for 312 to lose by 178 runs deep into the evening session.
Their chances were barely existent when they descended to 187 for six at lunch, in notional pursuit of a world-record target of 491.
Rashid (61) resuscitated them with a maiden half-century, in only his second Test, and was valiantly assisted by Stuart Broad and Mark Wood in stands of 60 and 55 for the eighth and ninth wickets.
Then, though, came the cruellest blow when Rashid himself committed England’s last mistake – surrounded by close fielders, and driving Yasir Shah straight into the hands of cover with 6.3 overs left.
England must, therefore, contemplate the stark reality that they cannot win this series, and, from 1-0 down, will lose it in Sharjah next week unless they can pull off a first Test success away to Pakistan since 2000.
England resumed the final day on 130 for three, and their best bet Joe Root (71) was soon gone – along with overnight partner Jonny Bairstow and then Jos Buttler before lunch.
Yet Rashid, who came so close to bowling England to victory in last week’s first Test but spoiled his card with a miserable shot in their damaging first-innings collapse of seven wickets for 36 runs here, would refuse to yield for 171 balls.
The Yorkshire all-rounder defied the efforts of a Pakistan attack led by spinners Yasir (four for 87) and Zulfiqar Babar (three for 53) for almost four hours. All reason suggested that England’s only feasible chance was to rely on a long innings from Root.
That way, they could perhaps somehow evoke memories of famous rearguards in Cardiff, South Africa and Auckland in recent years. Instead, despite Rashid’s wonderful efforts, there was to be no euphoria after all at a successful resistance.
The tourists were left to ponder too the physical well-being of captain Alastair Cook for the third third Test.
They insist he will still be fit to play in six days’ time, despite belated confirmation of a groin injury which was plain for all to see while he was batting on Sunday.
Belief here ebbed away when, soon after passing 3,000 Test runs, Cook’s deputy Root got a good one from Zulfiqar and edged a low catch to slip. He had, however, demonstrated a template for others to copy on a wearing pitch.
Bairstow escaped a sharp chance to short-leg, on 11, Shan Masood unable to hold on off the full face of a defensive bat presented to Zulfiqar. He battled admirably, but England were facing a mighty task to dead-bat Pakistan’s two spinners in this era of DRS which makes defensive pad play unviable.
Zulfiqar and Yasir bowled Australia out here a year ago, and duly set about trying to do the same to England.
Bairstow’s struggle came to an end when he was bowled, closing the face on a Yasir googly.
Ben Stokes found the challenge even more difficult initially, and could have been out twice to Zulfiqar on one – dropped at short-leg by Masood and surviving a stumping chance too after missing a full-toss.
Buttler was exposed in his current poor form, and fell to a leg-break which turned and bounced to take the edge and result in Younus Khan’s fourth slip catch of the innings.
The second new ball helped Imran Khan strike again in the third over of the afternoon, Stokes edging on the back foot to slip to end his 66-ball stay for 13 runs.
Rashid and Broad seemed to have little to lose by then, and their response was initially carefree.
After 15 overs, Wahab Riaz found an inswinging yorker to uproot Broad.
But Rashid survived a sharp chance to Mohammad Hafeez at gully on 42 off Yasir, and then scrambled his 50 with a single completed only when a shy at the stumps flashed wide with Wood short of his ground.
As the last hour approached, and progressed, Pakistan’s frustration began to match England’s nerves. They had Wood at last, with 11.1 overs to go, when he edged Zulfiqar low to slip – and although Asad Shafiq put down James Anderson at short-leg, the hosts had the last laugh and were gleeful as they mobbed Zulfiqar for catching Rashid.