Ajmal took three late wickets to restrict England to 207-5 at stumps Day 2, 50 runs behind Pakistan.
Abu Dhabi: Pakistan offspinner Saeed Ajmal removed Alastair Cook for 94 and took two more late wickets to restrict England to 207-5 and ensure the second Test is poised at stumps on Thursday after the second day.
Cook hit 10 boundaries in batting for nearly five hours and Jonathan Trott scored a gritty 74 with seven boundaries, but England lost 3-9 late in the day to trail by 50 runs after having bowled out Pakistan for 257 earlier in the morning.
Ajmal went wicketless for 24 overs before dismissing Cook, Kevin Pietersen (14) and Eoin Morgan (3) in his last five to finish with 3-67.
Ajmal mesmerized England's batsmen last week in taking 10-97 to inspire Pakistan to a 10-wicket win in the first Test at Dubai.
"Obviously the last half-hour turned it from a very good day to a good day (for England)," Cook said. "In the ideal world, we'd be sitting here 2, 3 down but that's what cricket is. It does go up and down, and credit to the way Pakistan bowled in that last half-hour. They made it really tough."
Cook put on 139 for the second wicket with Trott before he was out leg-before-wicket off Ajmal when he looked set for his 20th Test century.
Trott should have been out lbw on 22 off Ajmal, but Pakistan failed to ask for a television referral when replays showed that the ball would have hit the top of middle and off-stump.
"The bowler and the 'keeper were not sure that it was out and we thought that it hit him high ... definitely later on we thought that we missed a chance," Pakistan fast bowler Umar Gul said.
Becoming frustrated with the stand, Pakistan wasted both their referrals on Trott before and after he'd completed his half-century off 95 balls with six fours.
Both England batsmen were watchful as Pakistan failed to take a wicket in the second session on a pitch that offered assistance to the slow bowlers.
Left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman broke the stand after tea when Trott missed the line of the ball which brushed his off-stump.
"This match is open now and we have good chances to keep them down," Gul said.
England had lost skipper Andrew Strauss before lunch after having ended Pakistan's innings inside 15 minutes of Thursday's play.
The out-of-form captain struggled for 42 balls before falling to offspinner Mohammad Hafeez, before Trott and Cook joined in for a stand lasting nearly 3½ hours.
Strauss scored only 16 and 9 in the first Test and looked out of sorts on Thursday against spin, with Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq deploying his slow bowlers as early as the sixth over. Strauss succumbed when a big deflection from his bat onto his pads offered a simple catch to Asad Shafiq close to the pitch.
Earlier, Pakistan added only one run to their overnight score of 256-7 before Stuart Broad and James Anderson ended the innings in the space of 16 deliveries.
Broad finished with 4-47 after trapping Misbah lbw off his fourth delivery, which nipped back into the Pakistan captain. Misbah hit five fours and four sixes in his 84. He used the referral but TV umpire Billy Bowden upheld onfield umpire Steve Davis' decision.
Anderson trapped Ajmal lbw and forced Junaid Khan to loop a catch to slips to end the innings and enable the swing bowler to finish with 2-46.
Offspinner Graeme Swann took 3-52 while recalled spinner Monty Panesar had 1-91.