England stalwart Ian Bell eulogised the batting majesty of skipper Alastair Cook after the opener notched his 28th Test hundred to lead his side’s retaliation against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi.
Cook batted throughout the third day and amassed an unbeaten 168, sharing century partnerships with fellow opener Moeen Ali and then Bell as England closed on 290-3 in reply to Pakistan’s 523-8 declared, requiring 34 to avoid the follow-on.
The 30-year-old once again demonstrated his powers of concentration and became only the second non-Asian batsman, after South Africa’s Jacques Kallis, to score eight Test tons in Asia, while Cook stands 32 runs short of a third career double century.
“He’s shown in this part of the world that he can do it for days,” said Bell. “As ever, he’s led from the front, his shot selection against the spin was world class. It was a masterclass.”
Cook reached three figures against the West Indies in Barbados in May to end a barren spell of 35 Test innings without a century, although his knock yesterday saw him complete 1,000 Test runs in a calendar year for a record-equalling fourth time.
It was also his 10th century as England captain and moved him level with Peter May in that regard, while only Graham Gooch has more with 11. Cook now has 33 tons for England across all formats, one clear of exiled batsman Kevin Pietersen.
“To play the amount of cricket he has, you aren’t always going to be at your best, but you have to show some character at times to get through them,” added Bell.
“What’s he’s done well, especially the last few months, is when he gets in he makes scores like this, and they do cover your bad days. With what he’s been through, he’s a good role model to watch.”
A disciplined Cook was the dominant partner in a 116-run stand with Moeen before the Worcestershire all-rounder edged seamer Imran Khan behind to wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed for 35 from 131 balls.
Bell managed just a solitary run of his first 33 balls faced and was also dropped on one, but had shared 165 runs with his captain by the time he drove paceman Wahab Riaz to Mohammad Hafeez at point five overs before the end, perishing for 68.
Durham’s Mark Wood was sent in as nightwatchman to avoid exposing vice-captain Joe Root late in the day but that backfired as departed for four, bowled by Riaz.