Skipper Alastair Cook admits that questions will inevitably be asked of England’s most out of form players after a defiant rearguard action failed to scupper Pakistan’s victory march in the second Test today.
England’s margin of defeat was 178 runs although the tourists fell 6.3 overs short of batting out the fifth day and ensuring the series remained at deadlock heading into the third and final Test at Sharjah, which starts on Sunday.
The spotlight is set to fall most harshly on wicketkeeper Jos Buttler after his poor form with the bat continued in Dubai, while the glare continues to home in on all-rounder Moeen Ali and experienced campaigner Ian Bell.
“Jos is going through a tough time. This is what happens in international cricket, that someone is struggling,” said Cook.
“Moeen didn’t quite get it right with the ball. Sometimes when you are expected to turn it and take wickets you try too hard and force it. He will be disappointed. We are lucky we have a six-man attack to share the load.”
Buttler’s susceptibility to spin was evident again as he edged Yasir Shah to Younis Khan at slip for seven – he averages just 12 since the start of the Ashes.
The option remains for England to hand Jonny Bairstow the gloves and drop Buttler for either Alex Hales or James Taylor.
Moeen’s six wickets against Pakistan have cost 53 runs apiece and he has scored only 48 in four innings while partnering Cook at the top of the batting order.
Bell, meanwhile, averages 26.55 in 2015 and has failed to score a Test century in 21 knocks.
Resuming on 130-3 yesterday, England had plummeted to the perilous position of 193-7 before Yorkshire’s Adil Rashid, playing in his second Test match, led an unlikely revival with a score of 61.
The 27-year-old occupied the crease for 172 deliveries and struck his maiden Test fifty, sharing stands of 60 with Stuart Broad and 55 with Mark Wood – the highest ninth-wicket stand in a fourth innings in Test history.
England’s total of 312 was their highest ever in Asia, beating the 285-7 made against Sri Lanka at Kandy in 2003, although the damage was done earlier in the day as vice-captain Joe Root perished less than an hour into play for 71.
Bairstow made 22 from 86 balls while Stokes departed for 13, as Yasir finished with figures of 4-87 and fellow spinner Zulfiqar Babar 3-53, although a first-innings slump from 206-3 to 242 left Cook lamenting his side’s propensity to collapse.
“You always have faith and belief in the team but I always thought we were two wickets ahead of where we should have been,” added Cook.
“It was a long way back from from that third morning and we probably didn’t deserve to get out of jail, however well Adil played.
“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realise the problem. If you bat 75 overs in the first innings and 140 in the second it shows how badly we played in the first. It happens too often at the moment as a side. It’s a real frustration.”