Shoaib Malik magic makes England pay

Shoaib Malik plays a shot off the back foot in his innings of 245 as England wicket-keeper Jos Buttler watches from behind the stumps. Picture: AP
Shoaib Malik plays a shot off the back foot in his innings of 245 as England wicket-keeper Jos Buttler watches from behind the stumps. Picture: AP
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SHOAIB Malik’s comeback double-century exacted an ever escalating cost for the chances spurned by England in the first Test against Pakistan.

Shoaib escaped via a no-ball let-off on 40 when Stuart Broad had him caught but overstepped, and centurion Asad Shafiq and Mohammad Hafeez were both dropped early in their major contributions to a total of 523 for eight declared at the Zayed Cricket Stadium.

England’s mishaps all came on Tuesday but haunted them all the more by the time Pakistan asked them to start their reply after tea on day two and consigned the visitors to trying to eke out a stalemate with the bat.

They did well to reach stumps with their embryonic rearguard intact on 56 for none.

Shoaib, in his first Test for more than five years, turned his century into a career-best before lunch and stayed put until he had a tour-de-force near 11-hour 245 to his name.

The No 3 counted 24 fours and four sixes from 420 balls, before finally mis-hitting Ben Stokes (four for 57) to midwicket – where Ian Bell, the culprit who had dropped both Hafeez and Shafiq (107) the previous day, caught safely and nonchalantly this time.

The sparse but engaged crowd had bellowed its appreciation of Shoaib’s double century, and he followed an under-stated acknowledgment by dropping to his knees to perform the “sajda” towards Mecca.

England arguably needed help from above too by then, sticking to their thankless task in the searing temperatures and Alastair Cook using his bowlers as sympathetically as he could on the most benign of pitches.

The hosts, who resumed on an overnight 286 for four, guaranteed a position to control the remainder of this first match of three thanks to Shoaib and Shafiq’s partnership of 248 – Pakistan’s highest for the fifth wicket against England.

Shafiq duly followed Shoaib to three figures, from a mere 193 deliveries.

Adil Rashid was given a morning opportunity to see if a harder new ball might help him become more of a threat. Instead, he suffered most of all and left nursing the world’s all-time worst figures on Test debut, surpassing fellow leg-spinner Bryce McGain’s nought for 149 for Australia against South Africa six years ago.

The final scorecard recorded combined figures, in fact, of nought for 302 for England’s spinners but much more respectable, and deserved analyses, for an admirable effort in these arid climes by the seamers.

The aggregate cost, meanwhile, of those reprieves for Hafeez, Shoaib and Shafiq spiralled to 393 runs.

England were reduced to deploying Stokes for an over of spin just before tea.

It was pace that finally did the trick, though, when they began to pick up wickets as Pakistan sighted the declaration.

Mark Wood had Shafiq lbw aiming a front-foot pull and Stokes was in business, back in conventional mode, when Sarfraz Ahmed tried to clip to leg but instead poked a leading edge to mid-off.

With Shoaib gone too, when Zulfiqur Babar also holed out off Stokes, Misbah-ul-Haq called his batsmen in.

England openers Cook and Moeen Ali had an early scare each against Rahat Ali.

The captain did well, after so long in the field, to have the presence of mind to take his hand away at the last second as, off the second ball of the innings, an attempted cut bounced back just over his stumps.

Had he not, Cook would have followed his mentor Graham Gooch into the annals as one of the few barsmen ever dismissed “handled the ball”.

On three, Moeen had luck on his side that Paul Reiffel decided he had been struck just outside the line and DRS concurred the tightest of umpire’s calls on an inswinger which would have hit middle halfway up.

There were no further alarms, and England had earned their respite – knowing they must bat throughout day three at least to maintain the draw as most likely outcome.