Pakistan v England: Alastair Cook hits 168 not out in first Test

By Justin GouldingBBC Sport
Centurian Cook 'proud' but 'weary'
First Test, Abu Dhabi, day three
Pakistan 523-8 dec: Malik 245, Shafiq 107; Stokes 4-57
England 290-3: Cook 168*, Bell 63
England trail by 233 runs

Captain Alastair Cook led England's reply to Pakistan's daunting 523-8 declared with a fine unbeaten 168 in the first Test in Abu Dhabi.

He batted throughout the third day but England lost two wickets in three overs late on as they closed on 290-3, needing 34 more to avoid the follow-on.

Cook added 116 for the first wicket with Moeen Ali (35) and 165 for the second with Ian Bell.

Bell fell for 63 to Wahab Riaz, who also removed nightwatchman Mark Wood.

Those two wickets for four runs boosted Pakistani spirits on another day when bat dominated ball, on a soporific surface which has been widely criticised.

Captain Marvel

Cook's 28th Test century was typical of so many of his previous 27, founded on patience, discipline and excellent shot selection.

He dominated his first Test opening stand with Moeen Ali, tucking the ball off his pads with customary ease and capitalising on any width afforded outside off stump.

His approach was unaffected by the departure of Moeen, who was caught behind for 35 pushing at Imran Khan shortly before lunch to end a patient first innings as a Test opener.

Cook had made 147 by the time he offered a chance, substitute fielder Fawad Alam dropping a tumbling effort at backward square-leg off a top-edged sweep.

Alastair Cook

Bell back in form?

Bell spent the early part of his innings batting like a man who contemplated retirement following a miserable Ashes this summer.

Knowing that his dropped attempts to catch Mohammad Hafeez and Asad Shafiq cost England 188 runs in the field, Bell himself was reprieved on one when Shan Masood grassed a sharp bat-pad chance at silly point off Zulfiqar Babar.

He managed only one run off the first 33 balls he faced and saw a couple of edges fall short of slip before finally finding something approaching fluency as he compiled a 134-ball half-century.

He perished five overs before the close when he drove the persevering Riaz, who regularly touched 90 miles per hour, to Hafeez at point.

Wood, sent in to protect Joe Root, was dropped at second slip on nought before playing on as he attempted to force off the back foot.

Ian Bell
Ian Bell struck only five fours from the 199 balls he faced

How bad is the pitch?

With only 11 wickets falling in nine sessions - four of which came when Pakistan were chasing declaration runs - criticism of the pitch at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium showed no sign of abating.

Although the spinners found turn from early on the first day, the surface sorely lacks pace and bounce and there has been negligible reverse-swing with the older ball.

"This is tedious," former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott said on Test Match Special. "You can't sell this product to spectators."

Ex-England spinner Graeme Swann joked that the pitch is "as lifeless as an away game at Luton Town" - before earning a swift rebuke.

Luton Town tweet

So a draw is a certainty then?

While the departure of Bell and Wood in 14 balls raised the prospect of an England collapse on Friday, a fourth draw in nine Tests on this ground remains the most likely result.

With Cook at the crease, however, England could yet establish a first-innings advantage.

Boycott said: "If England bat all day tomorrow, then they'll have a small lead with one day to go.

"That's not enough time to win the game - who's going to get those wickets quickly and cheaply?"

What they said

England captain Alastair Cook on TMS: "For the good of cricket, you don't mind the pitch like this for three days if it ends up breaking up - not that we want it to do that because we want to stay in the game.

"We're still 230 runs behind and that's a long way away. We have got a lot of great batters to come and, after waiting their turn, hopefully they fill their boots too."

Former England captain Michael Vaughan: "Normally, when somebody gets a century, it's the batsmen who rush to congratulate him.

"With Alastair Cook, it was the bowlers - he's the bowlers' best mate. He's given them a day in an air-conditioned dressing room sipping tea."

The stats you may have missed

  • Alastair Cook has scored 10 Test centuries as England captain, level with Peter May - only Graham Gooch, with 11, has more
  • Moeen Ali, opening for the first time in first-class cricket, scored his first boundary off the 87th ball he faced
  • Of England's 57 different opening partnerships since 1984, Cook and Moeen are only the third pair to share a century stand in their first innings together, after Mike Atherton and Alec Stewart, and Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss
  • Cook and Ian Bell's second-wicket stand was the fourth century partnership of the game
Kevin Pietersen tweet