ABU DHABI: Skipper Alastair Cook was holding firm with a solid half-century after losing his partner Moeen Ali on the third day of the first Test against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. Cook was unbeaten on 78 and with him Ian Bell on a shaky single as England reached 122 for one at lunch, trailing Pakistan´s mammoth first innings total of 523 for eight by 401 runs. Resuming at 56-0 Cook and Ali batted well to post England´s first century partnership in 11 innings, with the skipper looking in good nick. Cook drove paceman Wahab Riaz to point boundary for his third boundary to complete his 45th Test half-century and negotiated the pace-cum spin attack with authority.
He has so far hit seven boundaries during his fighting 141-ball knock.England´s last century stand came against New Zealand at Leeds earlier this year with Cook and now discarded Adam Lyth posting 177. But at 116, left-hander Ali edged an outgoing delivery from paceman Imran Khan to wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed who took a low catch to his left. Bell survived some anxious moments at the crease with left-armer Zulfiqar Babar started to turn the ball on a pitch which did not assist England spinners on the first two days. Babar was unlucky not to have Bell four overs before the interval when close-in fielder Shan Masood failed to hold on to an edge at silly point.
But even that let-off will encourage Pakistan for further wickets in the second session. Pakistan´s big total was built around Shoaib Malik´s career best 245 in his first Test in five years.