ENGLAND opener Alastair Cook denied England had thrown away the chance to take the second Test against Pakistan by the scruff of the neck, despite the mini collapse at the end of day two which threw the match back into the melting pot.
Two wickets for James Anderson and one for Stuart Broad ensured Pakistan were able to add just one run to their overnight total of 256, but when Andrew Strauss went for just 11, the odds of England building a sizeable first innings lead looked slim.
Cook and the equally stoic Jonathan Trott diligently went about the rebuilding process, compiling a patient stand of 139 which suggested the tourists had taken on board the criticism that followed last week’s 10-wicket defeat in Dubai.
England were progressing serenely, if not rapidly, towards a position of near total dominance but when Trott departed for 72 it prompted an all too familiar spin-induced panic mode.
Cook fell six runs short of what would have been a fully deserved 20th Test century, before Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan succumbed to Saeed Ajmal as England lost 3-9 in the last 10 overs of a thoroughly absorbing day.
“I wouldn’t say we’ve thrown it away,” said Cook, whose side closed on 207-5, still 50 runs adrift of Pakistan’s first innings total. “We’ve got Ian Bell and Matt Prior – excellent players – at the crease, and our lower order did well in [the first Test in] Dubai.
“In the absolutely ideal world, you’d be sitting here with two or three down. But credit to the way Pakistan bowled in that last half-hour, and made it extremely tough. For 99 per cent we did it really well. The last few minutes didn’t go quite to plan.”
On a personal note, Cook admitted he was frustrated to have fallen short of a landmark that would have seen him draw level with his coach and mentor, Graham Gooch, on England’s all-time list of centurions.
He said: “It’s frustrating when you’ve worked so hard for a milestone. To fall just short of it is always annoying because you know it took five hours to get there.”
Day 2: Pakistan 257 all out,
England 207-5 (Cook 94, Trott 72)
96.4 Overs: Anderson takes England’s third wicket in quick succession to mop up Pakistan’s tail
13.2 Overs: Poor footwork against the spinner Hafeez is Strauss’s undoing again as England’s innings gets off to a shaky start
29.5 Overs: Ajmal misses a trick when he opts not to call for a review. Had he done so Trott would be on his way for 22
63.6 Overs: Trott doesn’t get forward enough and allows a classic left-armer’s delivery from Rehman to slip through and clip his stumps
74.6 Overs: Cook fails to pick Ajmal’s doosra and goes for 96
78.1 Overs: KP unwisely attempts to force the issue and drive at one that isn’t quite pitched up enough to attempt the shot. He’s out for 14, caught at slip via an inside edge onto his pad
84.5 Overs: No surprise as the struggling Morgan feathers Ajmal to Hafeez off the last ball of the day