ENGLAND plan to channel the disappointment of seeing Alastair Cook fall controversially short of a triple-century into pushing for an improbable victory in the first Test.
Cook’s remarkable 263 was the foundation of England’s 569-8, a total which gave them a 46-run lead at stumps on day four against Pakistan at the Zayed Cricket Stadium.
It is hard to see how an unresponsive surface which has so far permitted only 16 wickets in 12 sessions will deteriorate sufficiently for England to take another 10 in only two.
But Yorkshire’s Joe Root, who contributed 85 to a stand of 141 with Cook, is discounting nothing.
The captain’s chance to become only the sixth Englishman to record a triple-century ended after 836 minutes at the crease – the third-longest innings in Test history – when umpire Paul Reiffel failed to spot Shoaib Malik had overstepped for a delivery miscued on the sweep to backward square-leg.
Root, voicing his understanding about the lot of umpires, admitted: “It’s disappointing.
“It’s tough – the umpires are in a position where they can never win.
“If they make a good decision they are expected to do it; if they make a bad one everyone wants their heads.”
Protocol dictates that the third umpire is not at liberty to unilaterally intervene with the information that a no-ball has been bowled in such circumstances, unless the on-field official specifically asks his opinion.
Reiffel did not – and after facing 528 balls, Cook had to go.
Root added: “I have a little bit of sympathy for the umpires out there in that heat – they have to concentrate for just as long as we have – but you want to see those decisions go the right way.
“Unfortunately, everyone makes mistakes.”
Root had not spoken to Cook, before agreeing at his close-of-play press conference that his captain was probably frustrated.
He said: “I’m sure he would have (been annoyed) – but the fact is he’s out and we are in a position ... that we have a chance to win this game.
“We can put Pakistan under pressure and hope to force the result.”
Whatever the outcome, Cook has given England a foothold in the series with another supreme demonstration of his greatest qualities.
“It was a hell of an effort – two days in that heat showed huge amounts of skill, concentration and fitness,” added Root.
“Our captain has led from the front and set the example for the rest of the series.
“It gives us a glimmer of hope tomorrow that we can get some sort of result.”
That would be an odd denouement, to an already curious match.
“It will take a hell of an effort and (to) play out of our skins, but it’s there if we do everything perfectly well,” said Root.
“It would be (a surprise), but you’ve seen over the last session or so how it has started to spin a bit more off the straight.
“Reverse-swing has started to play a part towards the back-end of our innings – that spell from Wahab was exceptional – and it just shows it can take a little period of play like that to turn a game on its head.
“When you have that scoreboard pressure of some sort of a lead on the final day, you never know. It could be a really exciting finish.”
Wahab Riaz produced an outstanding spell with the old ball, taking the wicket of Jonny Bairstow and making Ben Stokes (57) struggle at the start of his innings.
Cook was a different matter, though, and the left-armer said: “The way he was playing, yes at times it does look like it’s hard to get him out.
“He’s a very good, very solid player with a great temperament.”
Cook is famously indefatigable, but Root said: “As you can imagine, being out there for two days, it has taken a lot out of him.
“But I’m sure it’s a good pain and one at the start of the week he’d have loved to have had.
“I’m sure he’ll rest up tonight and be as fresh as a daisy tomorrow.”
He, and 10 others, will all need to be if they are going to somehow go 1-0 up here.