Taylor's maiden 50 keeps England in hunt

Barnaby Read 17:31 02/11/2015
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James Taylor plays a shot during the second day of the third Test in Sharjah.

James Taylor’s maiden Test fifty led a defiant England to within 12 runs of Pakistan’s first innings total on day two of the third Test in Sharjah.

Taylor will resume Tuesday morning on 74* alongside Jonny Bairstow (37*) with England 222-4.

Playing in his first Test in three years, and third of his career, Taylor oozed class on a day in which runs came at a premium for England and patience took hold.

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Pakistan’s bowlers were largely left frustrated despite the liveliness of the pitch as the English batsmen dug in to deny their opposition and move in command of this final Test match.

All-in-all, a total of 218 runs came from the day’s 90 overs at 2.42 runs an over in an outing of Test cricket that will not have delighted fans of a more aggressive brand, but will have been appreciated by those that understand the longest format requires mental strength and application in spades from all parties.

England had begun the day in more fluid fashion, Moeen Ali and Alastair Cook rotating the strike and scoring with relative ease off the seam bowling pair of Rahat Ali and Wahab Riaz.

Moeen, however, paid for his own sense of adventure, top edging a slog sweep off Shoaib Malik to Younis Khan at slip.

It was another disappointing knock for Moeen since moving up to open for England, his return so far a paltry 62 runs in five innings at an average of 12.40 since partnering Cook.

Moeen’s wicket did not stall England’s progress, however, with Cook and Ian Bell taking the tourists to 87-1 at lunch and 147 runs within Pakistan’s first innings total just a session into day two.

The pair made 71 by the time Cook was heading back to the pavilion, Yasir Shah finally getting his man caught at short-leg after a series of chances not going to hand in the same fashion first thing.

Cook, approaching his 46th Test fifty decided against reviewing the decision and was out for 49.

It was the start of a good period for Pakistan who followed up Cook’s prized wicket with that of Joe Root’s for just 4.

Root, England’s second highest run scorer in this series behind Cook, did not show anything of the form that has made him a key cog in England’s side as Ali worked him over outside off stump.

The left-arm seamer was finally rewarded for his ‘channel’ persistence by inducing Root’s edge, the catch superbly completed by a diving Sarfraz Ahmed.

It left England 97-3, still 137 runs behind the hosts and the game entering a crucial period as Pakistan looked to inflict a middle-order collapse and England aimed to regroup.

In came Taylor, who alongside Bell denied Pakistan without hurrying to make an indent into their total.

Runs came at a painfully slow rate thanks to a mixture of controlled Pakistani bowling and an outfield that you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking was entirely sand.

It was a battle of attrition and one that England were winning.

They scored 48 runs at a rate of 1.78 per over in the second session of the day, not the most thrilling of viewing but vitally important for the away side if they are to salvage anything from this Test match as they slowly but surely ticked the scoreboard over in pursuit of Pakistan.

Bell did not look like scoring with any kind of fluency but didn’t give anything away.

His partner at the other end played with far more freedom as the Nottinghamshire batsman showcased his ability against spin on a pitch so embracing of the efforts of Shah, Zulfiqar Babar and Malik.

By tea they had reduced England’s deficit to a single run below three figures but just ten balls after the interval the stand was broken as Bell was stumped off the bowling of Shah.

His marathon knock of 40 came from 158 balls at a strike-rate of 25.31 in sensationally slow fashion, but at a crucial time following the departures of Cook and Root.

Alongside Taylor, the pair put on 42 from their 20 over stand for the fourth wicket.

The fall of Bell brought Bairstow to the wicket, batting one position up the order in the continued absence of Ben Stokes who earlier in the day had a scan on the right shoulder he injured on day one.

Bairstow combined with Taylor in a partnership worth 83 that puts their side in command of this Test.

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