After four days of limited excitement during the First Test between Pakistan and England in Abu Dhabi, the fifth day provided quite a contrast with wickets tumbling, and a controversial finish denied the English team an opportunity to claim an unexpected victory. Fading light ensured that a draw was the eventual outcome with England failing to achieve a 99 run target by just 25 as Pakistan were dismissed for 173 on an enthralling final day.
At close of play on the fourth day, England had led by 46 runs with two first innings wickets remaining as the match appeared destined to finish in a tame draw. A declaration at 598-8 allowed the English team to extend that lead to 75 runs with hope that some early Pakistan wickets would inject interest into proceedings, although the pitch had offered little help for the bowlers in the preceding four days.
What followed was certainly not anticipated as James Anderson claimed two early wickets with Pakistan eventually being reduced to 138-4 but seemingly comfortable at the wicket. 158-5 swiftly became 168-8 as Misbah-ul-Haq, in particular, displayed a reckless attitude when just needing to play defensive strokes. He departed for 51 when attempting a fairly spectacular stroke but he should have been adopting an anchor role with only the tail-enders remaining.
No further resistant was offered by Pakistan and their 173 total was quite a surprise given the two preceding massive innings’ by both teams, but at least Adil Rashid redeemed his reputation after recording record-breaking poor bowling figures during the opening innings. The Yorkshire spinner claimed 5-64 in nearly 19 overs to prove that he possesses character in addition to ability, and he must have surely cemented his place in the team for the second test.
As the Pakistan innings closed, a target of 99 runs from 19 overs was deemed achievable for England to secure the required victory, but scoring quickly with the light fading quickly was set to be the greatest challenge. Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali opened for England with need for quick scoring runs paramount, and Ali even attempted a reverse sweep during the opening over.
It was more akin to T20 action at the wicket, but as Pakistan adopted the inevitable time wasting tactics, the umpires eventually decided that no further cricket was possible due to the setting sun and resulting near darkness with England ending the day on 74-4.
There was no doubting the frustration in the England camp given that that 99 runs to be scored in 19 overs was not the most difficult of targets, but why was this test match arranged to finish at time when darkness would be prevalent at the scheduled finish. Could each day not have started an hour or just 30 minutes earlier to allow cricket to decide the outcome of the game rather that pure nature. Those arguments may continue for days to come especially when there were available floodlights at the stadium.