Cook calm after England labour

Pakistan England

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Alastair Cook

Alastair Cook was the only batsman to make a significant score in Dubai on day two as England struggled. "I think we have to put that down to a little bit of rustiness," explained the left-handed opener

Alastair Cook cited England’s “rustiness”, in their first outing for several months, as the main reason for their below-par performance with the bat on day two of their tour match against an ICC Combined Associate and Affiliate XI in Dubai.

Responding to their opponents’ 281 all out, England lost six wickets for 52 runs during the afternoon session before captain Andrew Strauss opted to declare 96 behind on 185 for eight.

Stuart Broad then took his match haul to six wickets as the ICC XI continued the unlikely trend of batting failures, on a blameless pitch, to reach stumps on 90 for five and with a lead of 185 to start the final day tomorrow.

Cook, the only England batsman to impress with a battling 76, admitted he and his team-mates were less than impressed with their collective first-innings efforts.

“It wasn’t ideal,” said the opener. “I think we have to put that down to a little bit of rustiness.

“But credit to the opposition, especially Boyd (Rankin). I thought he bowled very, very well.

“When you haven’t batted outside for probably four months, with whites and a red ball, it does take a while to get into that rhythm. But it’s not the end of the world

“I think, if we’d batted better, we still would have pulled out to set up a game. One of [team director] Andy Flower’s big things is to try and win these preparation games to make them competitive for us.

Boyd Rankin

Seamer Boyd Rankin's performance for the ICC Combined XI drew particular praise from Cook, who said: "I thought he bowled very, very well."

“They do lack that intensity of Test cricket, of course. But we try to get as much competitive cricket into us as possible, so that when we come to the first morning of that Test match we’re ready for it.”

Cook was typically modest when it came to analysing his own valuable contribution.

“I was kind of lucky I had a couple of plays-and-misses early on. I missed rather than nicked, like a few of the other lads,” he added.

The efforts of the Essex left-hander were all the more impressive given that he joined this tour a day and a half after the rest of the England squad, having been permitted a short honeymoon following his marriage on New Year’s Eve.

Referring to his bride Alice, Cook said: “We’ve been together for a while now, so I think she knew what she was marrying into - the life of a cricketer! She’s a good girl.

“It was an amazing day - a bit too short with the celebrations afterwards. Thirty-six hours can’t really be allowed to constitute a honeymoon.

“I hope at some stage in the next 12 months we’ll get to go away. But it was very kind of the ECB to give me that time.”

Should England face a feasible victory target tomorrow they will do so against an attack containing spinner George Dockrell rather than Hamid Hassan.

The Afghanistan fast bowler went to hospital on a stretcher, after falling painfully over the boundary trying to stop a Cook four.

He was cleared of serious injury but will take no further part in this match, and England agreed to allow 12th man Dockrell to take his place.

The ICC XI’s Ireland fast bowler Rankin was thankful Hassan, whose injury held up proceedings for several minutes, emerged in better health than was initially feared.

“After he fell, he didn’t really move for quite a long time,” he said. “So we were fearing the worst at that stage, with his back.”

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