Captain Cook hits 28th ton as England prosper

ABU DHABI: England captain Alastair Cook slugged his record-extending 28th test century as the tourists reached 197 for one against Pakistan at tea on the third day of the first test on Thursday.

Resuming after lunch on 122-1, Cook (116) and Ian Bell (31) obdurately reduced Pakistan's lead as Abu Dhabi's flat pitch provided bowlers with another day of toil. Pakistan had declared on 523-8 the previous afternoon.

Cook was the dominant batsman, with a drive through extra cover for four bringing up his ton off 180 balls to take the 30-year-old five clear of Kevin Pieterson at the top of the list of England test centurions.

He had a narrow escape shortly after. Trying to sweep, the England skipper only found air as he lunged forward and Zulfiqar Babar's ball struck his pad low.

Pakistan called for a review but Hawk-Eye indicated the ball would have missed leg-stump and England, instead, collected three byes.

The sweltering heat spurred Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq to rotate his attack. He used six bowlers, although the 36-year-old Zulfiqar carried the main burden as sole frontline spinner following Yasir Shah's late withdrawal through injury.

Zulfiqar's figures were 0-54 as he bowled 27 of Pakistan's 75 overs, Misbah seemingly content to just abate England's scoring rate.

England had started the day on 56-0, with Cook and new partner Moeen Ali -- England's seventh opening pair since the retirement of Andrew Strauss in 2012 -- at the crease.

A maiden first over was followed by 26 runs in the following six as Pakistan's twin attack of Zulfiqar and paceman Wahab Riaz found little joy.

Pakistan made a strong appeal for lbw against Cook from a wicked delivery by Zulfiqar, but the ball struck the pad outside off stump as England reached 100 without loss with a clipped single to point from their captain.

Paceman Imran Khan then made Pakistan's breakthrough, dismissing Moeen for 35 as an outside edge carried to wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed to reduce England to 116-1.

The tourists, now on the defensive, saw their scoring slow to a crawl and registered just 17 runs in the final 14 overs before lunch.

Perhaps energised by the break, Cook and Bell attacked in spells to drag England to within 126 runs of avoiding the follow-on.

The three-match series heads to Dubai next for the second test from Oct. 22 with Sharjah hosting the third contest from Nov. 1.


Cook defiant as England trim Pakistan lead