After four days of batting domination and frustrating missed opportunities for both teams, England almost snatched themselves a victory on the final day of the first Test against Pakistan, only to be denied by bad light.
Their strong finish – propelled by a heart-warming second innings five-for from legspinner Adil Rashid – ensures they travel to Dubai with the series’ momentum in their grasp.
The odds for the second Test don’t quite reflect that though, with Ladbrokes pricing England up as 2/1 outsiders against Pakistan’s 5/4. The draw is available at 9/4, but doesn’t hold much appeal considering things have ended up level just twice in the last eight Tests there.
Rashid’s redemption after recording the worst wicketless figures by a debutant bowler in the first innings was a joy to watch. He began drifting the ball into right-handers’ pads before viciously spinning the ball back past their outside edge.
His return of 5-64 in 18.5 second-innings overs will make a Pakistan batting card that bashed him to all parts much more guarded for the rest of the series. It also proves England have a balanced attack capable of winning Tests here.
Ben Stokes and James Anderson, with four wickets each in the match, did their best to show that it’s not all about spin bowling in the subcontinent and, along with Mark Wood and Stuart Broad, will be required to toil away again in Dubai provided a dust-bowl isn’t prepared.
Anderson’s efforts continue to inspire awe. Considering his age, continued high work load and the unfavourable conditions, watching the Lancastrian work through his box of tricks – he used the bouncer to good effect to pick up two victims – is to witness a highly-skilled technician performing at his peak.
Encouragement with the ball wasn’t the only positive from Abu Dhabi, however, and the general assuredness the batting lineup produced – epitomised by Alastair Cook – is another reason for confidence.
The Sheikh Zayed Stadium held a Test match without leggie Yasir Shah for the first time since Pakistan’s quickest bowler to take 50 wickets made his debut.
With Shah expected to take his place back in the side for the second Test, England will face a new, tougher challenge – he is the favourite to be named man of the match at 8/1. The feeling is, though, that Cook’s men can handle it.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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