Alastair Cook has conceded England probably did not deserve to escape Dubai with a draw after their first-innings collapse on the third morning, the manner of which Cook said “happens too often” and has thrown the spotlight on the middle order.
Wahab Riaz bowled the defining spell of the match, and potentially the series, when he claimed 3 for 15 in nine overs to spark England’s slide from 206 for 3 to 242 all out. While Cook lauded that performance he said that it was up to England’s batsmen to find a way through those situations.
England had resumed the third day on 182 for 3 with notions of going past Pakistan’s 378 to apply similar pressure to that they had managed in Abu Dhabi but instead effectively conceded the game. Cook did not want the near miss at a great escape, when Adil Rashid fell with 6.3 overs remaining as he drove Yasir Shah to cover, to gloss over problems.
“It happens too often at the moment as a side. It’s a real frustration,” Cook said. “You can talk about it all you want. Maybe it’s a realisation of that moment – full credit to Wahab, he bowled really well, 90mph reverse swing from different angles with some short stuff thrown in, so we aren’t saying it’s easy – but it’s a realisation that it’s a tough moment and for 45 minutes I’ve got to suck it up.
“To lose one wicket you are allowed, but not six or seven. You have to try and get through, he’s got 30 balls in this spell, get through that then it gets a bit easier. That starts from the top and goes right down to the bottom. We talk about it, we’ve spoken with Mahela [Jayawardene], all that sort of stuff, now we’ve got to do it. And we didn’t. Credit to the way they bowled, but we didn’t bat well in that two hours and it’s cost us.”
Behind Cook and Joe Root, who have scored 1245 and 1278 runs respectively in 2015, England’s next best is Ben Stokes with 681 runs at 32.42 and the middle order again struggled in the second innings, especially against Yasir Shah. Jonny Bairstow, having battled for more than an hour-and-a-half, played around a googly, Stokes was completely befuddled before edging Imran Khan to slip and Jos Buttler’s nightmares continued when he nicked a beautiful leg-break to slip.
They were shown up by the efforts of the lower order, firstly Stuart Broad alongside Rashid and then Mark Wood with who Rashid batted 29.2 overs to give England a glimmer of surviving.
“You always have faith and belief in the team,” Cool said, “but I always thought we were two wickets ahead of where we should have been. When Woody walked out with 40 overs to go it didn’t look quite so encouraging but he can bat, so can Jimmy and he’s done it before, and as that partnership grew and grew, people sat stiller and stiller. The belief started to happen but it was a long way back from that third morning and we probably didn’t deserve to get out of jail, however well Adil played.”
Cook did not want to single out the extravagant drive Rashid played which picked out cover despite, for so much of his 172-ball innings having been a picture of watchfulness, and said that Rashid would not be the only England batsman wishing he could have his moment again.
“A few of us would like our shots back, I was one of them as well,” Cook said. “You never mean to get out or mess up and he would love to have that shot back especially given how well he played the other 170 balls, but that’s cricket, that’s sport. It’s not down to that one ball.”
The player under most pressure for his place in Sharjah is Jos Buttler who, after falling for 7 in the second innings, now averages 13.00 since the beginning of the Ashes. One option for England is that Bairstow takes the gloves and James Taylor comes into the middle order, but Cook remembered his own experiences of being in a slump to offer Buttler hope.
“He’s hasn’t scored the runs he would like on this tour. He’s kept pretty well. It’s Test cricket, it’s a real tough time when you are struggling, I’ve been there numerous times and it’s hard,” he said. “The way he went about his business these five days, he’s doing everything right he’s just not getting a break. You are only one score away. It’s frustrating for him and everyone but that’s just the way cricket is.
“Naturally when you lose game or players haven’t performed as well as they would have liked people will look at the team. We’ll look at our team and if we sustain the type of cricket we’ve played for five days rather than four-and-a-half we’ve got a really good chance.”
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.