Cook reflects on disappointing day
Alastair Cook conceded Younus Khan and Azhar Ali had “taken the game away” from England with their unbroken partnership of 194 on day two of the third and final Test in Dubai.
Pakistan’s third-wicket pair were virtually untroubled as they batted throughout the afternoon and evening sessions to lift their side to 222 for two, and a healthy lead of 181.
Younus reached stumps on 115, having registered the first century of this series, while the resolute Azhar was unbeaten on 75 from 246 balls.
Despite admitting England are now in a difficult position, Cook insists a turnaround is possible.
“That partnership there has taken the game away from us,” said Cook.
“When they came in they were still behind us, and (with) a couple more wickets the game might have swung in our favour.
“If we sit here when we turn up tomorrow and say ’well, we’ve lost this game already’ then we might as well give Pakistan victory right now.
“If we’re thinking that in our dressing room, we might as well just not bother turning up.
“It will take some serious guts to drag ourselves out of this. But there are some bloody good players in that dressing room, and I hope we can stand up.”
Pakistan's efforts were all the more impressive given that 22 wickets had tumbled in four sessions prior to lunch today, England posting just 141 after skittling Pakistan for a paltry 99.
Misbah-ul-Haq’s men were still in arrears when Younus joined Azhar - following the dismissals of Taufeeq Umar and Mohammad Hafeez - at the crease this morning, yet ended the day very much in the ascendancy.
As well as giving praise to Younus and Azhar, Cook attributed such a dramatic switch to changing conditions.
He added: “The pitch has obviously changed from yesterday, but those two played well. We couldn’t create a chance in two sessions.
“The pitch characteristics have changed. There were less wicket-taking balls around than there were yesterday.
“It’s quite easy to see that. Maybe it’s because it slightly lost that tackiness, and the ball seamed and spun off it. Looking back at those wickets yesterday, the ball seemed to do just enough to take the edge."
Cook reserved particular praise for Younus, who has now registered 20 hundreds in Tests.
“He played a fantastic innings there, he took the attack to the bowlers and didn’t let them settle with anything they did,” said Cook.
“We tried a lot of things to knock him out of that rhythm but when a guy is scoring 20 hundreds and averaging 50, they are allowed to play well.”
Younus was determined from the outset, having been so annoyed by his dismissal - chasing a wide delivery from Stuart Broad - in Pakistan’s first-innings failure yesterday.
“I was very angry with how I got out in the first innings,” he said. “So I changed my mind and played more positively.”
Today’s play leaves Pakistan looking set to secure a 3-0 whitewash - not that Younus is taking anything for granted.
“They tried their best, but at the moment we have the edge on them," he added.
“England have fantastic players, and are number one. It won’t be easy for us, so there could be a fightback. But they will need some luck.”