Cook's unrelenting century keeps England fighting
Pakistan 523-8 dec. (Shoaib Malik 245, Asad Shafiq 107) v
England 290-3 (Cook 168no, Bell 63)
First Test, Abu Dhabi, day three
Alastair Cook struck his 28th Test century on day three of the first Test in Abu Dhabi, also passing 1,000 runs in the calendar year, to help reduce England's deficit to Pakistan to 233 runs at stumps.
The captain led by example to finish the day unbeaten on 168 as England closed on 290 for three after resuming on 56 without loss.
Replying to Pakistan's 523 for eight declared - in which Shoaib Malik scored 245 and Asad Shafiq 107 - Ian Bell made 63 and Moeen Ali 35 to offer Cook solid support.
Nightwatchman Mark Wood was bowled by Wahab Riaz late on for four but Pakistan could not shift Cook, who has defied them for 329 balls to dent their victory chances.
Having resumed the day on 56 for nought Cook and Ali played positive cricket.
Cook reached his fifty in 75 balls early in the day and the duo brought up the century opening stand in the 35th over.
Imran Khan (1-39) looked the best bowler on display as he kept the reverse swing going. He was rewarded with the wicket of Ali as the left-hander edged one to wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed. England were 116 for one at that stage.
Zulfiqar Babar (0-67) was brought on as soon as Bell made his way to the middle. Bell was all at sea against Babar’s spin and was dropped by Shan Masood at silly point.
England were able to make it through to lunch, having scored 56 runs in the first session, losing the solitary wicket of Ali.
Cook scored the first boundary after lunch with his typical sweep shot against the spin off Shoaib Malik (0-38).
As the duo looked determined, the frustration became evident for Wahab Riaz (2-79) who bowled a 10-ball over.
Cook went past 1,000 runs for the calendar year and soon brought up his hundred with a flowing cover drive. Cook has now scored a Test century in nine countries and is the second man to do so after India’s Rahul Dravid.
He also equalled Jacques Kallis for most hundreds by an overseas player in Asia which is eight and levelled Kevin Pietersen's English record of passing 1,000 runs in a calendar year four times.
Meanwhile, Bell brought up the 50-run stand with a backfoot punch past backward point as the Pakistan bowlers looked to be tiring on a flat pitch.
Cook had a nervous moment when Pakistan reviewed an lbw decision in the 67th over. The replays suggested that the ball was missing the leg stump even though the impact was in line.
Despite the slow start, Bell began to grow in confidence as the tea break approached, which England reached at 197 for one, still trailing Pakistan by 326 runs.
The intensity of the game was more of the same in the final session as the pitch had very little in it for the bowlers. Bell brought up his own half-century in 134 balls soon after which Cook went past the 150-run mark.
This was Cook’s ninth 150-plus score with only three other openers having more than him in the history of game.
The 165-run stand between Cook and Bell was broken when the latter holed out to backward point off Riaz leaving England 281 for two.
Wood’s stay as nightwatchman came to an abrupt end when Riaz castled him, marking a late comeback for Pakistan.
Joe Root (3 not out) and Cook saw through the remaining two overs of the day without any trouble. At the end of the day’s play, England had amassed 290 runs for the loss of three wickets.
Khan was the pick of the Pakistan bowlers with his reverse swing posing problems to the England batsmen. Riaz, despite appearing restless, ended up with the wickets of Bell and Wood.
© Cricket World 2015