Bad light controversy ends England’s hopes of amazing Test victory

England's Adil Rashid leaves field after his five wicket haul during the final day of the  first Test. (AP Photo/Hafsal Ahmed)
England's Adil Rashid leaves field after his five wicket haul during the final day of the first Test. (AP Photo/Hafsal Ahmed)

Alastair Cook set aside his frustration at England’s near miss in fading light as he spoke of his pride at the performance which took them to the brink of a famous victory over Pakistan.

The England captain is unconvinced that, when umpires Paul Reiffel and Bruce Oxenford ended play with the tourists just 25 runs short in a sprint run chase, the worsening visibility was “unfair” or “unsafe”.

With the light meter benchmark already set 24 hours earlier, it was no surprise stumps were drawn as England reached 74 for four in a first Test which had long seemed destined for a much less dramatic stalemate.

Adil Rashid (five for 64) earned many of the plaudits for second-innings bowling which, after James Anderson had taken two quick wickets with the new ball, did most to bowl Pakistan out for 173.

England therefore left themselves needing just 99 in a maximum 19 overs, of which only 11 could be bowled, after Cook’s man-of-the-match 263 had allowed him to declare first time round on 598 for nine midway through the final morning.

The thrilling last session which followed was an astounding turnaround from the attrition of the preceding four days.

It all left Cook trying to measure disappointment over unfinished business with satisfaction at England’s fightback after losing the toss and conceding 523 for eight declared.

Asked about the decision to call time on the match as desert dusk clashed with the Zayed Cricket Stadium floodlights, he said: “The only query I have is, in the letter of the law, is it unsafe to play?

“That’s what I’m always told at match referees’ meetings - ‘is it unsafe?’.”

Joe Root and Ian Bell did not appear to be having difficulty sighting the ball, against pace or spin.

“Well, it didn’t look like it,” added Cook. “It is so hard - because obviously, when the result’s not on and it looked dark, we were quite happy to come off [the previous day].”

In the bigger picture, however, Cook was highly encouraged by an England performance which gave him as much pride in this draw as many a win.

“I’m very proud of the lads, hanging in there for five days,” he said.

“It’s a really strange feeling - because there’s disappointment in the dressing room. You concede 520, and then right at the end of the game you’re the side who needs 20-odd runs to win with six wickets left - and the light fades.

“We’ve obviously done a number of things pretty well over the last three and a half days.

“Over the next 10 days of Test cricket, we need to show the same resilience.”

He was especially impressed with Rashid, who had match figures of none for 194 just before he took his first Test wicket.

Cook said: “He’s obviously had a tough introduction ... bowling on probably the worst wicket you’d ever want to make your debut on as a leg-spinner when you lose the toss.

“To get his rewards like he did, and bowl like he did, really sped up the game.

“Full credit to him for having that character and confidence in his ability to not get too down on himself.

“I think you saw the weight of the world lift off his shoulders when he got that wicket.”

Rashid had to show plenty of the resilience Cook demands.

“He’s got some good friends at Yorkshire (in this team) ... (and) as a captain, you always have a quiet word along the way,” said Cook.

“But it’s not down to anyone else, it’s down to him - sticking it out when it was tough and still having the ability and the confidence to rip his leg-spinner even when he hadn’t got a wicket.”