EVEN Alastair Cook’s admirable defiance was not enough to save his England team from a 2-0 series defeat to Pakistan as they lost the final Test by 127 runs at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
Captain Cook (63) tried his manful best. But the tourists’ costly habit of collapsing undermined them once again as a target of 284 to win - just about feasible at start of play on the fifth morning - became utterly distant after the loss of four wickets for 11 runs to spinners Yasir Shah (four for 44) and Zulfiqar Babar.
Cook refused to go quietly, having had to watch helplessly from the non-striker’s end as the middle order folded around him - after which only his skill and determination got England as far as 156 all out, at the start of the penultimate scheduled session.
They had resumed on 46-2, but soon descended alarmingly to 59-6 - with five successive batsmen, including Ian Bell the previous evening, making eight runs between them.
After a stand of 49 with number eight Adil Rashid, Cook reached a stoic 142-ball 50 - containing just two boundaries - but no further lasting support was forthcoming, with the captain himself eventually ninth out, up the wicket and stumped off Shoaib Malik (3-26).
The clearest difference between these two teams has been the relative effectiveness of their front-line spinners.
With the theme continuing, there was a chasm in the final analysis as England’s 20 wickets from spin in this series cost 59.85 runs each while Pakistan’s 35 came at less than half the price at 28.2.
England’s best hopes at the outset of the final day were evidently their two heavyweight, unbeaten overnight batsmen Cook and Joe Root.
But they could scarcely have got off to a worse start. In just the second over of the morning from Yasir, Root was right back on his stumps and pinned plumb lbw by a leg-break that fizzed on low.
England had a review left, but this was not the time to use it and lose it.
James Taylor had batted very well for his maiden Test 50 in the first innings, but lasted only nine balls this time - pushing forward a little off balance in defence at Zulfiqar and edging to slip.
Jonny Bairstow and Samit Patel then both made ducks, the former missing a sweep at Yasir and hit on the back leg. His review was futile.
Patel did not have that option left when he went lbw too - first ball, pushing forward to one that slid on from Zulfiqar.
The echoes of 2012 were uncanny, and depressing for England supporters.
Back then in Abu Dhabi, England were set only 144 but were bowled out for 72 by two different Pakistani spinners en route to a 3-0 defeat.
Cook was unsurprisingly in no mood to surrender, though, continuing his prolific year as he and Rashid scrambled England into three-figures.
Few nonetheless dared even then to believe in anything more than damage limitation.
Paksitan had at least been forced into a clutch of bowling changes - including recourse to seam in place of spin.
But it was a move which worked, when Rashid drove at a length ball from Rahat Ali and was bowled through the gate by one that came in from the left-armer’s angle.
Stuart Broad decided his best chance was in attack, either side of lunch, and he succeeded briefly until his attempt to sweep Yasir had to be adapted into a curious front-foot pull when the leg-spinner pulled back his length - and the result was a routine catch at square-leg.
Ben Stokes, down the order after injuring his shoulder in the field on day one, appeared in significantly less discomfort than he had done previously.
But with Cook finally gone, the last detail was Stokes stumped too - appropriately off the series’ leading wicket-taker Yasir.