Cook’s 836-minute epic pushes 1st Test towards draw


ABU DHABI: Alastair Cook played the third longest innings in Test cricket as he scored a monumental 263 to help his team into the 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 pace-cum-spin attack on a flat Sheikh Zayed Stadium pitch.

But even on a docile pitch it needed a strong resolve from Cook as he came to the crease in the last hour of play on the second day under the pressure of a big total of 523-8 declared by Pakistan.

As well as the nominal hosts’ bowling attack, Cook also battled hot conditions as the first of three matches in the series heads for an inevitable draw, barring an extraordinary batting collapse by Pakistan on Saturday.

He 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 resumed at 290-3.

Jonny Bairstow made just eight before becoming Wahab Riaz’s third victim, trapped in front of the wicket.

Left-arm paceman Riaz was the pick of Pakistan bowlers with 3-116 while 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. At close Adil Rashid was unbeaten on six and with him Stuart Broad has yet to score as England lead by 46 runs.

It was Cook’s third double century that enlivened an otherwise dull day.

Cook flicked Riaz to backward square-leg for two to complete his double century off 395 deliveries, the second of the match behind Shoaib Malik’s 245 for Pakistan.

Cook reached his 250 after tea, taking a single off Babar.

Root said Cook’s long batting has set an example.

“Two days in that heat shows huge amount of skill, concentration and fitness,” said Root of Cook’s knock.

“We spoke a lot about batting for long periods of time and how important its going to be to give ourseleves a chance of winning and our captain has led from the front.

“It has set an example for the rest of the series and give us some hope that we can get some sort of result tomorrow,” said Root.

Riaz admited Cook’s knock had left bowlers frustrated.

“The way he (Cook) batted it was frustrating at times for me as a bowler,” said Riaz.

“He has got a great temperament and on this pitch he exhibited all his batting skills to the fullest.”

Pakistan were once again sloppy in the field as they missed another chance to dismiss Cook when wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed failed to take an inside edge off Riaz when the England captain was on 173.

Fawad Alam had let off Cook on 147 off Babar on Thursday.

Root also survived a confident leg-before shout when fast bowler Imran Khan trapped him but Pakistan’s review once again went unsuccessful.

Root was finally trapped leg-before wicket by paceman Rahat Ali who finished with 1-73. Root hit seven boundaries in his 14th half-century.

Stokes also clobbered seven boundaries, reaching his fifth fifty and hit Babar for a four to give England the lead. He was finally bowled by Malik.

The remaining two Tests will be played in Dubai on October 22-26 and Sharjah on November 1-5.

Pakistan has played seven Test matches at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, winning four, including the last two by massive margins against Australia (356 runs) and New Zealand (248 runs) and drawing the other three. It won the only Test match here against England by 72 runs in 2012.

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