Abu Dhabi: Opener Alastair Cook praised Pakistan's fightback, which saw them grab four wickets in the last 30 minutes in the second Test here on Thursday, but still believes England have not thrown away the advantage.
England were comfortably sitting on 166-1 with Cook (94) and Jonathan Trott (74) closing in on Pakistan's first-innings total of 257, but lost four wickets in the last session of the second day.
Off-spinner Saeed Ajmal, who took a career best 7-55 during his team's 10-wicket win in the first Test in Dubai last week, claimed the wickets of Cook, Kevin Pietersen (14) and Eoin Morgan (three) to leave England at 207-5. England still trail Pakistan's first-innings score of 257 by 50 runs.
The visitors will be aiming to build a decent lead on a pitch which has helped the spinners and on which batting last will be difficult against the likes of Ajmal.
"I wouldn't say it's (advantage) thrown away. We're only 50 behind and we've got (Ian) Bell and (Matt) Prior, who both are excellent players, at the crease now, and our lower-order did well in Dubai," said Cook.
The 27-year-old left-hander missed out on his 20th Test century, trapped leg-before by Ajmal, who had figures of 3-67.
"In the ideal world, we'd be sitting here two or three (wickets) down, but that's what cricket is," added Cook. "It does go up and down and credit to Pakistan, who bowled well in that last half-hour. It's been a really good day for Test cricket. Obviously the last half-hour turned it from a very good day to a good day for us."
"It's always hard work for the new guy coming in. When you know there are only 20 minutes left, you can really attack the opposition, knowing they can't attack you. Obviously they jumped in very well then."
Cook also wasn't surprised his team lost three quick late wickets, saying the pitch at Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi has subcontinent-like qualities and can cause wickets to fall in bunches.
"As a fielding side we always know when you get one (wicket), as a team, you can go bang, bang," Cook said. "We set our stall out to bat for a long period of time, and for 99 percent of the day we did it really well. Obviously the last 20 minutes didn't go to plan, but it was still a good day for England."
Cook, who hit 10 boundaries during his 220-ball stay at the crease, admitted it was frustrating to miss out on a hundred.
"It's always frustrating when you've worked so hard to get to a milestone and to fall short of it, but it beats last week, when I got three and five," said Cook of his low scores in the first Test.
"As the ball gets slightly older and the seam is less pronounced, it gets slightly harder (to face Ajmal). I do think I can pick him the majority of the time, but like any batter you make mistakes."
Cook termed the Abu Dhabi pitch a different one from the past. "The history on this ground is that it is a high-scoring ground, but the wicket we're playing on now is not a 600 (runs)-wicket and it's obviously been prepared differently," said Cook.
"It dried out a little bit more. I'm just not sure how much it's going to dry out and whether it turns more," added the batsman, who added an invaluable 139 runs for the second wicket with Trott after Andrew Strauss fell for 11.
Pakistan paceman Umar Gul also praised his bowlers.
"We had a good comeback, especially the two spinners did well for that," said Gul of Ajmal and Abdul Rehman. "We had a plan but it didn't work out in the morning, but did in the afternoon."
"This match is open now and we have good chances to keep them down. Even if they take the lead, we want it to be minimal," said Gul, who still has no wicket for 35 runs.
The third and final Test will be played in Dubai from February 3-7.
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