ENGLAND paid a high price for missed opportunities as centurion Shoaib Malik put Pakistan in control on day one of the first Test.
The tourists had a clear-cut chance, after one early breakthrough, to reduce Pakistan to 12 for two at the Zyed Cricket Stadium. But Ian Bell dropped Mohammad Hafeez’s regulation edge to second slip off James Anderson, as the opener survived on seven en route to 98 in a stand of 168.
Shoaib (124 not out) had his own moment of fortune on 40 when England again failed to help themselves, this time Stuart Broad over-stepping as the No 3 squeezed a drive straight to a wide third slip.
Shoaib made no further mistakes and, in his first Test since 2010 and at the age of 33, marked his return with his third century at the highest level. The upshot, after Younus Khan claimed a more modest share of the spoils but became Pakistan’s all-time leading Test runscorer in the process, was a stumps total of 286 for four.
England’s travails were played out in front of a sparse crowd that could be counted for much of the day in three rather than four figures.
Of more consequence, in a country where few cricket followers are free to pursue their interest during working hours, was much reason for Alastair Cook’s team to regret their lapses of concentration in the extreme heat.
Hafeez cashed in before narrowly missing his century, and Shoaib operated comfortably in his partner’s slipstream before taking centre stage himself.
Management staff have been preaching since England’s arrival two weeks ago that they cannot afford to let chances slip by as they seek to follow up their Ashes success by becoming the first tourists to win here since Pakistan’s relocation five years ago. But they had to find out the hard way, the hosts’ second-wicket pair otherwise playing barely a false shot for more than 50 overs after England’s campaign began with promise when Anderson bounced out Shan Masood in only the third over.
Misbah-ul-Haq made clear, interviewed on television after winning the toss, that he was unimpressed by the lack of contingency which left him with no available spin back-up once Yasir Shah failed to recover from his back spasm. Pakistan were left with only Zulfiqur Babar as a frontline slow left-armer, and forced to pick an extra seamer in conditions thought sure to favour spin as the match progresses.
Misbah’s mood could not have lightened at the sight of Masood ducking into Anderson’s bouncer to end up being bowled off his helmet grille. He could scarcely have played, or rather not played, the ball much worse.
In mitigation, the element of surprise from such a hostile short delivery in these arid climes was substantial – and Anderson found the perfect line, too, to follow the left-hander.
After Bell then reprieved Hafeez, Cook ran through all his major bowling options to little avail. There was a turn for debutant leg-spinner Adil Rashid, but he served up ample scoring opportunities too.
Shoaib and Hafeez happily took low-risk advantage and by mid-afternoon, there was evidence that England’s frustration was mounting.
It was not until the last ball before tea that they had any respite, Hafeez lbw shuffling across his crease to Ben Stokes. Pakistan had nonetheless applied the slow grind to leave England’s flagging attack there for the taking in the final session.
Younus went past Javed Miandad’s national record Test tally of 8,832 runs – in style, hitting Moeen Ali high over midwicket for six – but got little further before chipping Broad to short mid-on, where Cook positioned himself as one of three leg-side catchers on the drive.
By then, Shoaib had completed his century by steering Broad behind square on the off-side for his 13th four from 182 balls.
But Misbah departed to a thin edge behind off Anderson, as umpire Paul Reiffel had to overturn his initial not-out decision on DRS. England therefore recovered a little of the ground previously lost.
For his trouble Anderson moved above Pakistan great Wasim Akram and into the top 10 on the global list of all-time Test wicket-takers on 415 - yet there was more disappointment before the close when, with the second new ball, he had Asad Shafiq dropped at second slip again by Bell.