ABU DHABI: Shoaib Malik hit a fighting hundred to cap an impressive return to Test cricket after five years as he led Pakistan’s charge in the first Test against England in Abu Dhabi yesterday. Malik was unbeaten on 124 for his third Test hundred-his first against England-to guide Pakistan to 286-4 at close on the opening day at Sheikh Zayed Stadium. Malik added an invaluable 168 for the second wicket with opener Mohammad Hafeez who missed his century by two runs after Pakistan won the toss and opted to bat on a flat pitch which is expected to take turn on the last two days. Malik, who has been averaging 100 in oneday cricket this year-form which earned him a recall in the longer format-has so far hit 14 boundaries in his 230-ball patient knock.
Apart from Malik and Hafeez, the day was also memorable for senior batsman Younis Khan (38) who became Pakistan’s leading run scorer in Test cricket when he overhauled Javed Miandad’s tally of 8832 runs made in 124 Tests. Younis, playing his 102nd Test, jumped out of his crease to hit spinner Moeen Ali for a big six at deep mid-wicket to reach 21, two more than his illustrious countryman Javed Miandad. Younis said he felt proud at reaching the milestone. “I had wanted to contribute more runs, but we are still in a good position as Malik played really well,” said Younis, who now has 8852 runs. “If he (Malik) plays the first two sessions on Wednesday then our position will be further strengthened, he has shown all of us how to make a comeback.” England’s pace-cum-spin attack struggled for wickets under hot conditions, bowling some loose deliveries coupled with two dropped catches by Ian Bell-both off James Anderson.
It was Anderson who gave England an early breakthrough when he dismissed Shan Masood (two) in a bizzare manner, with the left-handed opener taking his eyes off a bouncer. The ball hit the grill of his helmet before crashing onto the stumps. Hafeez and Malik steadied the innings and batted with resolve. Hafeez hit 13 boundaries during his 170-ball knock before he tried to play on the leg-side in an attempt to reach his ninth Test hundred. He challenged Australian umpire Paul Rieffel’s decision but to no avail. Anderson, who took 2-29, was unlucky not to account for Hafeez as Bell dropped a regulation catch off the bat in the second slip.
Hafeez was then batting on seven. Hafeez took advantage of the lapse and at 26 hit leg-spinner Adil Rasheed to point boundary to reach 3,000 runs in his 45th Test. He is the 17th Pakistani batsmen to score 3,000 or more runs in Tests. Malik also had a reprieve when on 40 he was caught in the gully off paceman Stuart Broad only to see the umpire signalling a no-ball.
Paceman Stuart Broad dismissed Younis with a miscued drive which was well taken by Alastair Cook at an unusual position, close to the nonstriker end’s umpire. Skipper Misbah-ul-Haq became Anderson’s 415th Test wicket when he was adjudged caught behind after England players reviewed the umpires’ decision of not out. Anderson is now the tenth all time wicket taker in Tests. England’s misery was completed when Shafiq was also dropped by Bell at ten, spilling an easy catch off Anderson. Pakistan’s plans to hit England with spin were dealt a blow when their leg-spinner Yasir Shah was ruled out of the match with a back problem. The 29-year spinner, seen as match-winner for Pakistan, stumbled while bowling in the nets on Monday and after assessment early yesterday was left out. England were also without injured paceman Steven Finn. They included Rashid for his first Test.—AFP