• Alastair Cook’s side are in the United Arab Emirates to play Pakistan
  • Last wicket: Moeen c Sarfraz b Imran 35 England 116-1 
  • England reach 122-1 at lunch on day three, after Pakistan made 523-8dec
  • England captain Cook reaches 100 from 180 balls
  • England bring up 100 without losing a wicket in the 35th over 
  • England cricket news: CLICK HERE for all the latest 

Jonny Singer for MailOnline

England go into day three knowing they need to bat all day to avoid the follow-on, but encouraged by a final session on day two which helped shift the momentum in their favour.

After Pakistan had batted them into the ground before tea, England picked up four quick wickets after the break, and then began to set about their aim of getting as close as possible to their hosts’ mammoth total. 

Captain Alastair Cook and his new partner Moeen Ali reached 56-0 at the close, leaving England 467 behind at the start of play this morning.

Follow all the action with JONNY SINGER, with updates from PAUL NEWMAN in Abu Dhabi.  

  • Jonny Singer

    Host commentator

You should get fish with chips like that. Ian Bell lifts Imran – who has not hit the heights of earlier in the day, and is down on pace and accuracy – over midwicket for three. Very classy that. 

Alastair Cook’s runs are not exactly flowing – his accumulation is less like a river and more like an intravenous drip – they are constantly being added to the total. 

He picks up another single with a push to mid-off, and Bell moves to 42 with an ugly, but safe, pull shot for one.

I have to say I’m surprised that Wahab Riaz has not been given the new ball – I know he’s less reliant on swing than Rahat, but the latter man has offered very little.

Cook gets another single when a mistimed cut nonetheless beats a scrambling point.

After Cook picks up a single, Bell faces another big appeal for lbw – and remember Pakistan have their reviews back now.

Imran is convinced, and the shout from behind the wicket is loud, but as soon as it is given not out the slips admit they’ve seen an edge, so no DRS.

Bell responds by cutting hard when Imran drops short and wide, and is only denied four runs by a very fine diving stop. 

Time for a few of your comments – which are of a higher quality than yesterday, well done!

England will bat onto day 4 at this rate,’ says rizalh, in Manchester. Well I hope you’re right – and I think that’s the intention. This games is unwinnable, so patient accumulation, grinding down the bowlers, is the way to go.

Irteza is less complimentart ‘Wtf is wrong with bell…he need to play with a bettr strike rate…’ I know it was a slow start, but he is up to around 30 now, and it doesn’t seem to be doing him too much harm.

Get your notebooks out! Write it down! The second over of the fourth ball used in the match, and we have some swing! Rahat just gets one to go away from Alastair Cook – who pulls out of his shot in time to watch it go harmlessly by.

Still, encouraging for Pakistan. Good to say the stands are much fuller today than the previous two – and the crowds are colourful!

Pakistan fans cheer on their team

Right, new red cherry, Imran Khan, the most impressive bowler so far, with it in his hand. England need to survive this burst – and perhaps even use the hardness of the ball to up the rate. 

The third delivery is the first to really work Ian Bell, and it finds his inside edge, but that’s a very chunky bit of bat and the ball runs away square, and out towards the boundary for three runs.

Cook is tempted by a very wayward ball down the leg side, but can’t reach it/pulls out of it just in time – hard to tell which. 

More runs through midwicket for the England captain though when Imran bowls full and on his pads. And again, same place, this time for a single. Six from the first over with the new ball. 

Three more singles. Zero pressure. There really isn’t much more to say.

The new ball comes out… thank god!

This is being made so, so easy for England. Bell twice, and Cook once, take jogged singles. No ball is coming even close to beating the bat.

One more over until we can all wake up. 

Just a very gentle lull post tea and before the new ball – which is due in two overs after this. 

Cook and Bell each take a single from Malik, but even when the bowler produces a rank full toss the England captain doesn’t play particularly aggressively. 

Asad Shafiq continues – England should really be targeting him, but for now caution is the order of the day, and only a Cook single from the final ball brings any runs this over. 

Spin after tea, it’s Shoaib Malik – the freshest of the Pakistani bowlers because of his enforced morning absence from the attack – into his seventh over.

England take three easy singles, which takes them to the 200 mark. Warm applause. 

England still need 127 to avoid the follow-on – but these two will hope to be most of the way there – if not all the way there, by the end of the day.

Another wicketless session would more or less save the game. Let’s see if they can do it.

England captain Alastair Cook salutes the crowd as he leaves the field with Ian Bell at tea

It may sound like a strange thing to say of an Englishman in the desert, but Alastair Cook looks right at home.

The century he completed with a rare cover-driven four off Wahab Riaz was not only his 28th in Tests – a feat that drew him level with Michael Clarke, the captain he vanquished in the summer. It was also his eighth in Asia, where he now averages a fraction under 60.

Only Jacques Kallis among non-Asians has scored more Test runs on this continent than Cook’s 1,918.

With Ian Bell feeling his way tentatively into this series at the other end, England – 197 for 1 at tea on day three – have made a heartening start to their reply to Pakistan’s potentially overwhelming 523 for 8.

But, well, this was all about Cook, his endless reserves of energy, his almost inhuman levels of concentration, his apparently unquenchable thirst for runs.

It has not always been this way, of course. But Cook is now Test cricket’s leading runscorer in 2015, having passed 1,000 runs during the course of this innings, as well as England’s leading centurion in all internationals, surpassing Kevin Pietersen’s tally of 32. His two-year drought is well and truly behind him.

One more stat says something about his versatility. He has now scored Test hundreds in all nine of the countries in which he has played (10 if you separate Wales from England). And, in each of them, he averages at least 41.

Just as importantly, Cook’s presence militated against the kind of collapse that can arrive from nowhere in this part of the world, like the lone cloud which floated harmlessly over the Sheikh Zayed Stadium yesterday afternoon.

England began this innings needing 324 just to avoid the follow-on, and with scoreboards being pored over from their last visit here, when their batting disintegrated time and again.

But Cook’s ability to absorb the probing left-arm spin of Zulfiqar Babar and the exacting seam of Imran Khan meant that scenario was barely discussed. Only when he narrowly escaped an lbw shout from Zulfiqar on 101 – the ball-tracking technology had a turning delivery missing leg – did he look at risk.

Bell’s progress was less inevitable, but just as crucial. When he timed Shoaib Malik through point in the second over after lunch, it was only his second scoring shot from his 36th ball. For much of the time, he played as if he feared a batting failure to go with his pair of first-day drops.

But the appearance of the late cut, caressed for four off Rahat Ali, suggested his timing has not completely deserted him. How England would love him to exorcise all his demons in this innings alone.

This may be the last over before the interval, which means Asad Shafiq is back on – he seems the go-to guy for six balls to reach a break. 

Cook in no mood to throw his wicket away after such a long time occupying the crease, and only a really filthy delivery can attract a scoring shot. Even then it’s only a single. 

Long delay as everyone makes sure the clock ticks over before the final ball of the over is bowled. Bell blocks, and off they go. England’s session – wicketless.

Bell pushes Malik to mid-on for a comfortable single, before a big-turner causes Alastair Cook a bit of trouble. 

He spoons it up towards mid-on, but there is no fielder anywhere near close enough to the bat to have a chance of catching.

Ouch! Another Cook sweep smashes into short leg – they run a single as it deflects away, but Shan Massod, who is not having a pleasant Test match – needs some treatment. In fact, he’ll spend the next five minutes before tea off the pitch. 

Lovely stuff from the England captain, who rather like Arsenal since 2004 can go through periods of play where you can’t believe how sloppy he looks, followed by moments of beauty. Well this is the latter, as he pulls Imran Khan over the infield and to the midwicket fence. 

Another one of his favourite shots, the leg glance, brings another run. He now has 113 from 213 balls. 

Next ball Imran thinks he has Bell caught behind down the leg side. Fortunately for England’s No 3, no-one else, from the Pakistan team to the umpires, agrees. May have brushed the pad. May not have carried. Certainly won’t be given out!

Spin again, and despite his recent Hawkeye incident, Cook is still happy to sweep. Firmly behind square for a single, despite a misfield. 

Bell gets a single of his own, and Cook adds a third from the over. The run rate is not spectacular, but England are playing to save this Test, so the current 2.6 an over is fine.

Ctrl+v: ‘Ian Bell late cuts for a single’

That should do you for the next few overs then. 

The action is all coming when captain Cook is on strike, and he drives through cover – not perfectly timed by any means, but good enough for three. 

 

A single for Ian Bell – with a late cut, of course – takes him to 28. And another appeal for lbw against Cook, who is just beginning to make uncharacteristic mistakes.

Although this one looked a fair way outside off stump, so even with the reverse swing there is no problem for the England captain. 

Just 10 overs until the new ball is available – do England push on against the softer ball, or make sure they are only one down when the new cherry arrives?

Ok, enough of debating hawkeye and worrying about things. Let’s look at a picture of the England captain celebrating his eighth century in Asia. 

That takes him level with Jacques Kallis as the most ever for a non-Asian player. 

England’s Alastair Cook reaches his century and salutes the crowd.

Imran Khan’s last spell was 4-3-1-1 – so his re-introduction may be just what Pakistan need. 

This spell is already more expensive after just three balls, each of Cook and Bell taking a single. 

Imran then appeals for an lbw against Cook, but there’s bat involved, it’s hit outside, it’s missing and they have no reviews left. Apart from  that, a good shout. 

Lots of debate on Twitter about that review two overs ago – with some people questioning Hawkeye and others pointing out the angle of the bowler’s arm. As I said at the time, it just looked out, but the human eye can be wrong, and Hawkeye had it missing by some way – more than the margin for error. 

Well, I’m gobsmacked about that. I feared for Cook there, I really did. Missing?? Does that mean this pitch is turning square?

Perhaps a bit of luck for the England captain and hopefully a reminder to him that his job is not yet done. he cannot allow his concentration to slip here.

Another late cut from Bell, straight to the floating slip – on the bounce, but this is a low percentage shot against Rahat, and he would be well advised to stop. 

Rahat gets a warning of his own, for running on the pitch – this isn’t a game to lose a bowler, so he’ll need to be very careful now. Just one run from the over, and that came courtesy of an overthrow.

Ah, what do I know? (don’t answer that please). As I tell Bell to stop trying to late cut, he does it twice in two balls to pick up three runs of Zulfiqar – a two and a one. 

Cook looks for his favourite shot against the spinner, that powerful sweep, twice. Once it hits short leg, and the next time it hits the pad and they call for a review!

Is it outside the line? Looks very close. There’s no bat involved. I have a horrible feeling about this. Hit in line. But it’s turned too much. Missing! Blimey! That was close. 

I’m not so sure about that – Hawkeye occasionally throws up some odd decisions, and this one feels like one of those. But no matter. The England captain survives. Still, maybe he’ll worry about sweeping a bit more now. They ran three leg byes by the way.  

The cut shot is just not working for Ian Bell – he misses one, and then under edges another from Rahat. Yes, it gets him runs, but until he finds a bit of fluency maybe he needs to put it back in his kit bag?

He nudges the fifth ball of the over into the leg side to move to 23.

Zulfiqar rattles through a maiden to the England captain to get us going again after drinks. 

In his new book Second Innings, which has been serialised by Sportsmail, Andrew Flintoff is extremely complimentary about England’s current captain, the man with 101 runs to his name at the moment.

‘In terms of batsmanship, the idea that Cook can’t do this and can’t do that makes me laugh,’ writes Freddie. ‘Coming up to 30 Test hundreds as a 30-year-old? Wow, amazing. And yet the pundits say he can’t hit an off-drive? 

Let me repeat: almost 30 hundreds aged 30! He could end up scoring more Test runs than Tendulkar. What will the critics say then?’

You can read more on that here.

Just when Ian Bell starts to look comfortable, he makes a silly error, attempting to late cut a ball that’s far too close to him, and under-edging past his stumps. Unnecessary. 

But he survives, and a Cook single from that over takes England to 170-1 at drinks.

Zulfiqar Babar has never been far away from the attack, and he comes back on. Bell tries a little paddle sweep but it’s well fielded at short leg. 

A maiden, so to raise the pulses, have another Alastair Cook is amazing stat:

Another hundred for Alastair Cook, his 28th in Test cricket and his first in the UAE. That is some response from the captain after 11 tough hours in the field.

He really is an incredibly strong cricketer. Mentally, that is. Cook is so important to England here. This situation may have been made for him but it has been far from easy and this famous non-sweater has even got a bit of a bead on out there.

You can’t emphasise enough how hot it is here and how difficult that makes it for the cricketers. These two have to go on and on here.

Another fine shot from Bell – he’s still a long way from where he wants to be, where he needs to be, but this will help. 

Rahat Ali returns, and Bell cuts him gracefully behind square, through the gap for four. The put in a deep third man so that the next time he nudges the ball into that region it’s only one. Still for a man who averages less than nine in the UAE he’ll be relieved to reach the 20s!

He’s cut, he’s nudged, he’s nurdled and, perhaps most importantly, he’s swept in this innnings, and, since ball No 2 of the innings, he’s done it without much fuss.

But Alastair Cook will know that 100 is only half-way there. He needs a big score, and this is a pitch where he can get it. 

England captain Alastair Cook hits out on the sweep on the way to his century

There is now a man at deep point for Cook, so Wahab is giving him the single in his favourite area, which he happily takes. 96 now for the England captain, who is one hit away from his first ever century in Abu Dhabi – and indeed his first away tonne against Pakistan.

Bell gives him the strike back, pushing a full ball towards the cover boundary for three. Not quite the flourish of a typical Bell cover drive – which when it works is somewhere between Leonardo and Van Gogh in it’s level of artistry – but lovely timing and technique.

He may be the calmest man in world cricket, but a little bit of tension creeping into Cook’s game in the 90s, and he gets a leading edge off Wahab’s fifth ball – but all along the ground.

But he’s there now! A gorgeous straight drive beets Imran Khan’s chase, and runs into the rope. Brilliant batting from the England captain.

Not quite middled this, Alastair Cook, but that push through the offside brings up 1,000 Test runs for the calendar year – though even if he were to add the five more runs he needs to make it to three figures, that would only be his third of 2015. 

Bell patiently blocks out the remaining two balls of the over. He has now faced 61 balls for his 14.

That is a genuine edge, and a genuine chance. Not exactly a drop, because it bounced about a foot in front of first slip, but they could have been further up in the cordon – and indeed they immediately come closer for the next ball.

They run a single as it goes down, and then Cook almost follows him, wafting at one outside off stump, pulling out of the shot far too late, and very nearly nicking off. 

A more controlled shot from Bell, though still through the cordon, brings him four. He really needs the luck he is getting at the moment, because these are tough, tough times for the England batsman.

Captain Cook moves into the nervous 90s with a clever cut to the zealous Zulfiqar. Apologies for the awful alliteration in that sentence.

The boundary is the scoring shot in an otherwise gentle over of left-arm tweak. 

Paul Reiffel has actually started calling no balls. Well played that umpire.

It’s ludicrous that Test officials have stopped calling them in recent times, a big factor in this spate of ‘wickets’ with no balls. It takes all the flow from the game.

Umpires have always been able to call them. Why not now? Well done to the former Australia seamer. It will never catch on…

The dual spin attack is split for a bit, with Wahab Riaz back on. He’s the fastest of Pakistan’s bowlers, but hasn’t bowled the fastest ball of the match. Rather surprisingly, that title still belongs to Ben Stokes’ 92mph effort!

Right on the money with a yorker first ball, but Cook digs it out. Then yet another no ball – really worrying this trend from Wahab – followed by two wides. And another no ball. He’s only over-stepping marginally, but these are all correct calls.

He decides to go around the wicket to Bell, which improves matters somewhat – finding an edge with the one ball Bell is tempted to play at, but straight down into the ground. Two many he could just leave alone though, and despite only a Cook single coming off the bat in that 10-ball over, it’s quite costly.

Since Imran Khan removed Moeen Ali caught behind it’s been tough going for England..

… with Ian Bell dropped at bat-pad shortly before the tea interval

Just a bit of an indication that Alastair Cook is looking to move things along as England begin to look marginally more comfortable for the first time since that Moeen wicket.

The chef dances down the track, turning a not bad Zulfiqar delivery into a full toss, and nudges it into the gap for a single. That’s the only run from the over, but it’s a useful rotation of the strike. 

A Cook single and some resolute Bell defence. A bit more cagey after the ‘flurry’ of boundaries…

That seems to have done the trick! It’s Happy Days indeed as Bell hits his first boundary, following his skipper’s example and sweeping Zulfiqar to the fence. 

Still not quite vintage Bell – when that happens I’ll be getting very excited, I promise you – but certainly a bit better.

It’s slow going here in Abu Dhabi and Ian Bell is making for nervy viewing. So my mind can’t help wandering to home.

It’s a big day today because the legendary Squeeze, enjoying a renaissance having released an album to accompany the Danny Baker TV series Cradle to Grave, are playing the Royal Albert Hall tonight and I do believe it’s sold out.

How about a bit of their new single Happy Days Mr Singer to keep us all amused?

While Bell scraps and stumbles, Alastair Cook is batting beautifully, at his dogged yet elegant best. He gets down to sweep Malik powerfully in front of square for four – that takes him to 84.

The England captain has to turn this form into one of his ‘Daddy hundreds’ – or should that be Abu Dhaddy hundreds? (I’m sorry, I’ll get my coat!)

Blimey! Bell happy to leave the ball outside the off stump to Zulfiqar, but showing an awful lot of his stumps. Luckily, the turn keeps it off the stumps, despite the angle.

Both men pick up singles from the final two balls of the over. The first runs off Babar since about 8.30!

Spin from both ends, with Shoaib now in tandem with Zulfiqar. Cook works him away to midwicket for the first run of the afternoon session. 

And then, what’s this? An attacking shot from Bell, punched off the back foot for three wide of mid-off. Better – and that brings to deficit under 400!

There were ominous signs in the build-up to lunch that this is going to be a very difficult after noon for England. Ian Bell hardly suggested permanence during his stay of one off 27 balls so far while even the captain looked a bit shaky.

It’s amazing how quickly things can change in sub-continental conditions. Suddenly after Moeen Ali’s departure the Pakistan fielders came alive and the pressure was very much on.

These two somehow have to ease that pressure and get the scoreboard moving without being reckless. It’s not an easy balancing act.

Zulfiqar continues after the break, with Ian Bell surrounded. The England No 3 sees off deliveries 28-33, and remains on one not out. Turgid. 

A huge session for Ian Bell ahead. Twitter, the press, former players – it seems everyone is just waiting for him to be dropped. He was awful last time in Abu Dhabi, and hasn’t looked really good for some time.

If he wants to start against South Africa this winter, now is the time to cash in on a good pitch.

How are we all doing? A bit better than at 6.30 this morning? I’ve just had my breakfast, which makes everything feel more pleasant (egg, sausage and bacon if you were wondering). Anyway, the 50-odd runs England added in the first hour should have eased any worries, even if the final half-hour was a bit less fun.

I always like to try and end the lunch break with a stat, and this one is a beaut – it just shows how much England have gone into their shells since Moeen got out. 

Century stands between England openers have become such collector’s items that Alastair Cook and Moeen Ali – two of their team’s least demonstrative players – allowed themselves a quiet handshake when they passed the landmark in the 35th over of this reply. 

Ali fell soon after, caught behind off the energetic Imran Khan for 35 – an innings that, coming off 131 balls, was another reminder of the versatility of a batsman who spent the summer counter-attacking from No 8.

But by then he and Cook had put on 116, and the only surprise was that Ali had become the third different opener to enjoy a century stand with the England captain this year – after Adam Lyth against New Zealand at Headingley and the now-forgotten Jonathan Trott in Grenada. Which just serves as a reminder about the quixotic nature of statistics…

The ease with which both openers played – at least until Imran embarked on his probing spell – encouraged English optimists to believe that a draw remains the likeliest outcome here.

And while it’s true that the pitch remains as unyielding as ever, there was some reward for the innovative bowler.

That included the left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar, who might have dismissed a nervy Ian Bell two or three times in the 15 minutes before lunch, and had him dropped by Shan Masood at silly point. England’s No 3 entered lunch unbeaten on one off 27 balls.

At the other end, Cook was reinforcing his credentials in Asia, where he averages in the late 50s and relishes both the lack of bounce and the premium placed on discipline.

Unexpectedly, he had outscored Ali two to one, picking off the leg-side gaps, sweeping with increasing confidence and occasionally letting rip with one of those punishing cuts. After that long drought, Cook really does look to be back to his bloody-minded best.

There remains plenty of work to do for England, and they slowed up considerably in the second hour of the session. Stasis is dangerous. But the loss of only one wicket in the first 49 overs of their reply to Pakistan’s 523 for 8 is a good start.

Alastair Cook has looked comfortable as he scored fluently for much of the third morning

A first bowl for Shoaib Malik – remember he could not bowl for much of this morning having been off the pitch yesterday evening. He gets the final over of the session, with plenty of men round the bat for the England captain.

Turn and bounce, but Cook doesn’t take the bait, and he reaches lunch on 78.

At least one more over before lunch, probably two, and neither Bell or Cook look particularly keen to do much more than get there.

Another maiden, Bell has now faced 27 balls for his one run, which was inside edged in his first over.

This spell has been very impressive from all three Pakistani bowlers – Zulfiqar, Imran and Wahab – which means you have to cash in on the bad balls. And Alastair Cook looks furious as he fails to do that, cutting a wide won in front of square and picking out the man.

That’s better though, he doesn’t miss out again, giving point a long chase, which the ball wins. The first boundary for half an hour.

Very risky game that Ian Bell is playing here, his pad out in front and not much attempt to put bat on ball.

One flicks off that front pad – bringing an lbw appeal from Zulfiqar – takes the bat and goes to short leg. The fielder can’t hold on to what would be a seriously tough chance, but Bell can count himself lucky. 

Another maiden. Lunch can’t come quickly enough.

Imran has been superb, but the conditions don’t allow for extended spells, so Wahab Riaz is back on. 

He beats Cook outside off stump first up – the England captain has really gone into his shell since the wicket went down.

After another no ball – which is becoming a problem for Wahab – one keeps a bit low. A less set batsman might have struggled there, but Cook deals with it easily enough.

A fairly big appeal against Ian Bell as he plays with bat and pad together. The umpire in no way interested, looks like it hit both more or less simultaneously. They opt not to review, but do bring in another man under the helmet. 

One that drifts and straightens beats Bell outside off stump. After looking so comfortable for an hour and a half today, England really under the cosh right now. Huge 15 minutes to lunch. 

Another appeal from the final ball, he was a fair way down and I think it hit outside off too. And there may of been bat. No review. Another maiden. 

Really impressive stuff this from Imran – it’s not rapid, but it’s fast enough, and just doing a little bit off the surface. 

Plenty of variety in this over, both in pace and line, but the England captain is having none of it, blocking and leaving for a maiden. 

Ian Bell is batting like a bagel out there – all edges, no middle. Zulfiqar has been brought back on to test him, and he plays out a maiden, without really convincing with his defensive technique. A few of them squirted away dangerously.

Bell has been one of England’s best players of spin. He needs to prove that he still is.

Pakistan’s Imran Khan celebrates after dismissing England’s Moeen Ali

A breakthrough for Pakistan and Moeen Ali’s resistance has ended. That was an out of character innings from Moeen but he showed enormous mental strength there to score just 35 off 130 balls before the bowler with the famous name in Imran Khan earn his reward for a good spell.

Ct Sarfraz, bowled Imran. That dismissal takes me back a bit.

Now this is a test for Ian Bell. He had a shocker on the first day in the slips and we know that his confidence as a batsman can be affected if he has a poor time in the field. And he averaged eight when England played here in 2012.

Nervy times for one of England’s most experienced players.

Right, time for a calm head. England are still in a decent position in this innings, they just need to keep plugging away, building partnerships, and not panic.

That won’t help though, as Bell edges his first ball to second slip, but it bounced a long way in front. Soft hands. The England No 3 – fighting for his place for about the 30th time in his career – then inside edges across his stumps to get off the mark with a single. That’s the first run Imran has conceded today, I believe.

The successful bowler is the only man to have got anything out of this pitch, and he’s done it by hitting the seam hard – there was definite movement in the last few overs. Well bowled. 

Imran Khan has been by far the best bowler today, making things happen with the ball, and now he has the wicket. 

The seamer finds Moeen’s outside edge, and it’s held by Sarfraz Ahmed behind the stumps. A disappointing end, and nowhere near as many runs as he’d have hoped, for Moeen Ali, despite facing a whopping 131 balls. 

That will calm the captain’s nerves. Shafiq with a dreadful ball, short and slow, and Cook hammers it for four in front of square on the leg side.

A single for Cook, and two of them for Moeen, make it a productive over. 

For the first time in a long while – certainly the first time today – Alastair Cook is beaten outside the off stump by the seamer. Not a lot of movement, just a brain freeze from the England captain, playing away from his body.

The next ball does do a little off the pitch though, hitting the seam and keeping low, with a hint of away movement. Has Imran found a crack in an otherwise pristine surface? Watch this space…

He finds the edge! Cook pushes at the final ball of the over, and it falls just short of second slip. First real scare of the morning for the England captain, the lack of pace in the pitch saves him. Not really a drop, but I haven’t had much use for that icon yet today, so I’m getting it out.

Pakistan’s coach Waqar Younis with Mustaq Ahmed watch on as their team strive for wickets

Shafiq continues – I’m not sure the logic of that, even with Shoaib Malik unable to bowl (he was off the pitch for a long time yesterday following his monster effort with the bat), this man is properly part-time – and the field is set well back. 

Singles available all over the place without the slightest hint of risk. Three of them milked from that over. 

A bowling change after the mini-interval, with Imran Kahn introduced in place of Rahat. 

Tidy enough from the right-armer, a maiden to start off his day. 

That hundred partnership, by the way, is the first by a new England opening pairing in their first innings together since 2004, when Andrew Strauss and Marcos Trescothick put on 190 for the first wicket. England could do with that!

 

Moeen Ali uses the drinks break to use a cold towel to cool down

Asad Shafiq comes on for Zulfiqar, who bowled well enough this morning without ever threatening.

Cook takes a single off the first ball of the over, and Moeen adds another from the last. England through to drinks having added exactly 50 in the first hour. 

Rahat makes that cardinal sin of bowling to Alastair Cook on the pads, and the England captain flicks him away for two more runs square of the wicket. He loves that. 

And again, this time only for one, but it’s one that brings up the England hundred. The perfect start for a new opening partnership. 

Four more runs for Moeen – who now has 31 -thanks to another poor ball down leg side that he glances to the fine leg fence.

There really is an atmosphere in the ground for the first time in this Test – the fans who are here are making themselves heard, mostly in favour of the nominal hosts.

Moeen sweeps Zulfiqar for a single, before Cook plays the same shot with a little more power, and into the gap, for a boundary. There was a shout of ‘catch’ but it was all the way along the ground, and struck really well. The skipper moves into the 60s.

Zulfiqar Baba is bowling well here and getting a bit of turn out of this flat surface.

The 36-year-old has a very good recent record but he has been bowling in tandem with Yasir Shah and I think he has got a lot of his wickets on the back of him. Shah is a huge miss for this Test for Pakistan.

I’m not going to comment just yet on the England batting because it usually tempts fate when I do. And I believe in fate.

My colleague Lawrence Booth says that’s all nonsense but whenever I say someone is batting well they immediately get out. Always. So I’m saying nothing.

Alastair Cook may just have saved his partner there – Moeen had pushed to cover and run the first, but as he turned to come back for a second that was never there, his captain bellowed a huge ‘NOOOOOOOOO’. The spinner made it back, but he wouldn’t have got through for the run.

That is the only run of an otherwise uneventful over. 

As ever, I welcome any thoughts you have, through whatever medium you wish to send them. 

Eldrick Elias is the first to get involved this morning, writing in the comments below: ‘C’mon cooky make a century. I’m here watching the game today better be better than day 1!’ Well he’s started alright – just needs to keep batting and batting!

I’m not sure how you build pressure on this road, but it’s not like that. Both Cook and Moeen able to push very easy singles into the off side in this over. It’s not spectacular, but it keeps the board ticking over.

A fairly loud, but not particularly good, lbw appeal off the final ball. But nothing doing for the umpire. 

Rahat is really looking for that inswinging yorker to Moeen – and the England batsmen is desperate to flick him through the leg side. Twice in a row the bowler just misses his length, and both times Moeen picks out the fielder. 

In other news, there are plenty of fans in today – as predicted, now that the workers have some time off (it’s a national holiday today apparently) they are keen to be at the match. 

Moeen connects quite nicely with a drive on the final ball of the over, but finds mid-off. It’s a maiden, the first since the first over of the morning. 

For the first time this morning Cook’s sweep brings him a run – just a single to square leg, who is fairly deep now.

Moeen tires his familiar release to mid-on, but there is now a man very close in to stop it – so he takes his single to midwicket the next ball instead. England making steady progress. 

A first boundary for Moeen Ali as a Test opener – it’s taken him 87 balls, but it’s worth the wait as he just nudges Rahat, on for Wahab, between mid-on and midwicket. Pure timing, no power, but it goes all the way for four. 

Those are the only runs of the over, but very little threat from Rahat in his first bowl of the morning.

Again Cook looks to sweep out of the rough for the second time, and for the second time he completely misses. Another bye as it goes through Sarfraz.

Moeen gets another single to mid-on, who is back and gifting the England opener a run every time. 

Cook then rocks back and cuts Zulfiqar to the point fence – that was a better shot. 

Another single for Cook off the first ball of the over – it’s odd to see him so positive when Ali is playing so patiently, it really is.

But Moeen shows he has his array of shots in the locker when he wants to get them out, as he shows with a graceful back-foot push through cover for two.

Stands tall and defends straight for the rest of the Wahab over.  

England captain Alastair Cook plays a trademark flick to leg as he passed his 50 on day three

Ohhhh – Alastair Cook wears the expression of a man who has missed out after that. Back of a length and wide, but he plays his favourite cut shot straight to the man. Should have been runs.

Two worrying deliveries in a row after that though, as Cook leaves one that turns sharply back towards his off stump – just not far enough though – then misses with a sweep and runs a bye as it goes through everyone. 

Moeen more comfortable for the rest of the over. 

A single for Cook takes him off strike – he and Moeen have faced almost exactly the same number of balls, but Ali, who was meant to come in to be an aggressive foil, remember, has just 16 in the time it has taken his captain to compile a half century.

Ouch! He wears one here, half-ducking a Wahab bouncer that doesn’t really get up. Smashes him on the shoulder, although credit to him, the hands were firmly out of the way. It was a no ball too, so it wouldn’t have mattered too much, and there is no lasting damage.

Just what England needed from their captain. A 50 – off just 75 balls – brought up by running Wahab Riaz down to third man to the boundary. A start. He’ll want at least another 50, and hopefully much, much more. 

Moeen gets his first run of the morning from the first ball of the over, nudging Zulfiqar to mid-on for a single – so Cook gets his first taste of spin today.

Bat well out in front of pad from the England captain in defence, as has become his way of playing the tweakers. He turns one fine for a couple, then plays a rather more aggressive shot over the infield on the leg side for three more.

The England captain has been positive again this morning, after scoring at a good rate yesterday evening. 

Wahab Riaz to open up from the other end on this third morning – he was probably the most threatening bowler yesterday in his five overs, and certainly the quickest.

First ball is up over 90mph – though also a no ball – as he finds his rhythm straight away. Cook happy to block and leave, although the final defensive shot is so well timed that it beats mid-on and they pick up a couple. 

We are a long way from Old Trafford or Trent Bridge, both in distance and atmosphere, but some things never change. The England fans – a few dozen of them – belt out Jerusalem in the first over of the day. Lovely. 

Moeen takes on a couple of sweeps, neither of which he middles, both straight to square leg. No runs from the first over of the day.

Moeen on strike, Zulfiqar Babar with the ball in his hand. There will be a lot of spin today, how will England cope…

Good morning from Abu Dhabi where, as usual, there isn’t a cloud in the sky and England are about to embark on their attempt to save this first Test. T

hey have been hugely disappointing with the ball – especially the spinners – but this pitch is flatter than the flattest thing from Flatfordshire so there really shouldn’t be any reason why they cannot bat big today.

And yet. How often do England score 500 after the opposition does? Can they really show the necessary patience and application in this helter-skelter modern cricketing world? How often do we see scoreboard pressure play a part?

And bear in mind just how tough these conditions are and that England spent 11 long hors in the field. It was actually a monumental effort from Alastair Cook and Moeen Ali to get through last night, Moeen showing real mental strength to remain unbeaten after bowling so many wicketless overs. Much will depend on Cook today.

I’m worried about Ian Bell’s state of mind after his two costly dropped catches. And I’m worried about Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler in these conditions. So over to you captain and a man who remarkably has never opened the batting in a first-class match.

Yet because of the lack of alternatives here he is doing it in a Test as Cook’s seventh opening partner since the retirement of Andrew Strauss.

Can Moeen make a success of this unlikely new role? Stayed turned with Jonny Singer, Lawrence Booth and myself to find out.

 

Both England batsmen looked in decent touch last night – Cook’s second ball apart – but they aren’t happy with being just ok – the two have them have had a net this morning, and will be out in the middle in just a few minutes.

We saw on days one and two that this surface is ideal for batting – flat as the proverbial pancake (and much flatter than a real pancake, which always have little air bubbles). Pakistan took full advantage.

But they say never to judge until both teams have batted and so I was a little worried before last night. But Moeen and Cook showed how it can be done. Which means it is just about concentration for England – not giving wickets away, and keeping the score ticking over.

Eventually, you’d think, the pitch will deteriorate, at which point it will become tougher to play spin. But for now, there are no gremlins. It’s a fill your boots kind of a day.

Of course, all the momentum in the world is no substitute for time in the middle, and that is what England need today. 

Alastair Cook and Moeen Ali did the bare minimum yesterday, scoring at a decent rate but, more importantly, not losing a wicket before the close in 21 tricky overs.

Now they have to come out and bat. And bat. And bat. If England can get through to the close of play today they will probably have passed the follow-on, which is step one to salvaging a draw. 

That will mean one – or preferably both – of these two making a score, and contributions from the rest of the order. With a middle order not in great form against spin (Buttler and Stokes in particular) all eyes will be on Joe Root and, perhaps most vitally of all, Ian Bell.  

Of all the aspects of sport that are the most difficult to pin down, momentum is right up there. Perhaps not quite as tricky to quantify as ‘team spirit’ or the ‘will to win’, but pretty close.

Well, for what it’s worth, England did a lot yesterday evening to grab the momentum. Will that help today? We shall see…

Alastair Cook and Moeen Ali saw England through to the close without losing a wicket

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