Alastair Cook holds fort for England as Pakistan grab two early wickets

Alastair Cook of England remained unbeaten on 41 as England trail by 235 runs Getty Images

Dubai: Feb 6, 2012

Pakistan hit back with two quick England wickets to set up an interesting finish to the third and final Test played at the Dubai Stadium on Monday.

Chasing a daunting 324-run target, England went to lunch at 89-2 with Alastair Cook unbeaten on a chancy 41 and Kevin Pietersen on one not out, needing another 235 runs to avoid a clean sweep in the series.

Pakistan won the first Test here by ten wickets and the second by 72 runs in Abu Dhabi.

England need a big partnership to avoid another defeat as Pakistan’s spin duo of Saeed Ajmal and Abdul Rehman threatened to run through them on a weary fourth day pitch.

Pakistan could have been in a better position had they not dropped two crucial catches, the first off Strauss on 26 when wicket-keeper Adnan Akmal grassed a simple chance off paceman Umar Gul.

But that didn’t hurt Pakistan as Rehman trapped England captain in the very next over. Strauss challenged the decision by Australian umpire Steve Davis but his review failed.

Gul then let off Cook at 24 when he failed to hold a top-edge sweep off Rehman. Cook has held firm since them and has so far hit four boundaries during his 145-ball knock.

Cook had also benefited from a drop catch on Saturday when Taufiq Umar let him off in the third slip off a miscued drive off Gul when he was four.

Ajmal then broke a dangerous looking 37-run stand between Cook and Jonathan Trott (18) by forcing a top-edge sweep which was smartly snapped up by Rehman at square-leg.

If England chase the target successfully it will be their second best pursuit behind their 323 against Australia at Melbourne way back in 1929. In case Pakistan win they will record a first-ever clean sweep against England. (AFP)

Brief Scores: Pakistan 99 all-out & 365 all-out (Azhar Ali 157, Younis Khan 127; Monty Panesar 5 for 124, Graeme Swann 3 for 101) lead England 141 all-out & 89 for 2 (Alastair Cook 41*, Andrew Strauss 26; Saeed Ajmal 1 for 16) by 235 runs.

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