Visitors 46 runs ahead as they finish day 569-8 in reply to host’s mammoth 523-8
Alastair Cook played the third-longest innings in Test cricket as he scored a monumental 263 to help his team take a 46-run lead over Pakistan in the first Test in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
The skipper batted for 836 minutes to guide England to 569-8 at close on the fourth day to thwart Pakistan’s attack.
But even on a docile pitch, it needed a strong resolve from Cook when he came on to bat in the last hour of play on the second day under the pressure of a big total of 523-8 by Pakistan.
Along with the hosts’ bowling attack, Cook battled the heat as the first of three matches in the series heads for an inevitable draw, barring an extraordinary batting collapse by Pakistan on Saturday.
Read: Alastair Cooks Pakistan in the Abu Dhabi heat
The England skipper finally played a tired-looking sweep off spinner Shoaib Malik and was caught at backward square-leg by Shan Masood, ending his 528-ball knock which had 18 boundaries.
Pakistan’s Hanif Mohammad holds the record of the longest Test innings with 970 minutes during his 337 against the West Indies at Bridgetown in 1958, ahead of South African Gary Kirsten’s 878-minute knock during his 275 against England at Durban in 1999.
Cook added 141 for the fourth wicket with Joe Root (85) and another 91 for the sixth with Ben Stokes (57) after England started the day at 290-3.
Read: 1st Test England stay firm after Malik’s maiden double ton
Wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow made just eight before becoming paceman Wahab Riaz’s third victim, trapped in front of the wicket. The left-armer was the pick of Pakistan’s bowlers with 3-116, while part-time off-spinner Shoaib Malik took 2-97.
It was a nightmarish pitch for the spinners as the first wicket to a slow bowler came in the 171st over when Malik bowled Stokes.
Pakistan’s frontline spinner Zulfiqar Babar managed just one wicket in his 70 overs, conceding 180 runs.
Cook takes the plaudits
Cook’s third double century enlivened an otherwise dull day and Root said it set an example. “Two days in that heat shows huge amounts of skill, concentration and fitness,” the Yorkshire man said of his skipper’s knock. “We spoke a lot about batting for long periods of time and how important it’s going to be to give ourselves a chance of winning, and our captain has led from the front. It has set an example for the rest of the series.”
Read: Malik inspired Pakistan declare at 523-8 in first Test against England
Wahab also admitted Cook’s knock left the Pakistan bowlers frustrated. “The way Cook batted, it was frustrating at times for me as a bowler,” he said. “He has got a great temperament and on this pitch he exhibited all of his batting skills to the fullest.”
However, Pakistan were once again sloppy in the field as they missed another chance to dismiss Cook when wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed failed to take an inside edge off Wahab with the England captain on 173. Fawad Alam had let off Cook on 147 off Babar on Thursday.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2015.
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