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Wahab Riaz bowled his heart out against England - Yasir Arafat

Wahab Riaz bowled his heart out against England - Yasir Arafat
Wahab Riaz (centre) celebrates the dismissal of Jonny Bairstow (right) in the first Test in Abu Dhabi.
©REUTERS / Action Images

Pakistan all-rounder Yasir Arafat has praised the efforts of his counterpart Wahab Riaz in the first Test match against England in Abu Dhabi which ended in a thrilling draw.

The first Test was all set to end as a drab draw, but a sudden turn of events in the final day made up for an exciting contest.

Pakistan’s batting line-up collapsed in the second innings on the final day and England were nearly successful in their chase of the 99 run target – only to be thwarted by bad light.

Arafat expressed his utmost displeasure at the pitch in Abu Dhabi, which was a paradise for the batsmen.

The 33-year-old observed that the weather conditions coupled with a lifeless pitch made the fast bowler’s work extremely tough.

“Pakistan must be breathing a sigh of relief after their near miss in Abu Dhabi and regardless of the drama on the final day,” Arafat told www.PakPassion.net in an exclusive interview.

“As a fast bowler I can tell you that bowling in those conditions is not an easy task.

“Not only do the fast bowlers have to come to terms with dead tracks, but they also have to learn to deal with the extreme temperatures in the UAE which in these months can get up to 40°C during the day.

“This is tough for the fast bowlers but remember, the spinners suffered as well, with the first spinner taking a wicket towards the end of the second day.

“In England’s innings, six of the wickets were picked up by the fast bowlers.

“So all in all, it was very depressing to see such a wicket with little help for the bowlers except, of course, on the last day.”

Riaz was the leading wicket taker for Pakistan in England’s first innings which was highlighted by Alastair Cook’s phenomenal double century.

On a pitch that had the least support for fast bowlers, Riaz was able to extract plenty of reverse swing, especially in his spell against Ben Stokes.

Arafat was full of praise for Riaz’s efforts to reverse swing the ball at a good pace on a track that was an absolute belter.

“While there is understandable criticism of the pitch in the way it offered no assistance for the fast-bowlers, I would like to mention Wahab Riaz’s excellent effort during this match in which he was reverse swinging the ball at will.

“We all saw that one spell he bowled to Ben Stokes but if you look at his overall effort, you will see that he bowled around 90mph throughout which given the circumstances was really impressive.

“He bowled his heart out in the first innings with 37 overs for 125 runs which may not sound too good but he is an attacking bowler and runs don’t matter as long as he is taking wickets which he did for Pakistan.”

Citing the example of Stuart Broad who only managed the lone wicket in the match, Arafat argued that the quality of the pitch in Abu Dhabi was “embarrassing”.

“Even Stuart Broad and James Anderson were bowling with the keeper up which is an indication of the pace of the pitch.

“Contrast this to a few months ago when Stuart Broad was bowling in the Ashes and was unplayable due to his speed - in Abu Dhabi the keeper was standing up to the stumps.

“This, I believe, is embarrassing for cricketers and is no fun for spectators either.

“One can only hope that the situation will be different in Dubai.”

Pakistan were well placed in the second innings with the score reading 113 for three but the lower order imploded thanks to Adil Rashid’s five-wicket haul.

Putting down the dismal performance in the second innings to poor application, Arafat stated that Pakistan also lacked attacking bowlers apart from Riaz.

“All that happened was that in the second innings, we showed some lack of application and commitment and we almost paid the price for that attitude.

“To be fair, there was hardly any spin on the track until the fourth day and in terms of our bowling, we really had no attacking options apart from Wahab Riaz.”

With Yasir Shah all set to make his return for the second Test match, Arafat opined that Pakistan’s chances will revolve around the performance of the 29-year-old leg-spinner.

“One cannot ignore the fact that England will go into the second Test with a huge morale boost after their performance in Abu Dhabi.

“All said and done, Pakistan’s overall chances in the Dubai Test will revolve around Yasir Shah and of course on how conducive the pitch is to his type of bowling.”

The second Test of the three-match series will be played between 22nd and 26th October at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

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