Moeen Ali gives England cause for optimism in UAE

Moeen, expected to open alongside Alastair Cook in next week's first Test, proved his effectiveness as England's frontline spinner with three for 41.

But Iftikhar Ahmed (92no) and Fawad Alam (55) shut the tourists out, in a fourth-wicket stand of 112, for 44 overs - including the entire afternoon session - as Pakistan A's reply to 286 for six declared realised 216 for five in a pre-ordained stalemate in Sharjah.

Moeen and Mark Wood had provided the wickets as England made early inroads on this bowling day, after their 90 overs with the bat here, reducing the hosts to 32 for three by late morning.

But it then became hard going, England's only chance between lunch and tea passing them by when Cook was unable to hang on two-handed high to his right at slip after Iftikhar edged the first ball of Stuart Broad's second spell.

That would have been 51 for four, with Iftikhar gone for 11.

Instead, he and Alam - the latter with most to win or lose as a returning member of Pakisan's Test squad - enforced the hard grind.

With an ageing ball and largely unresponsive pitch, save a little help for spin, England were unable to alter the equation in a match which nonetheless served its purpose of further acclimatisation to extreme temperatures.

First-change Wood produced the most eye-catching initial spell among England's pace bowlers and was rewarded with the wicket of Sami Aslam after no breakthrough with the new ball for Broad or James Anderson.

It was Broad, though, who had a hand in the departure of teenager Aslam - his right, in fact, diving high to take a good catch at square-leg as the left-hander went to pull.

Wood, given the first chance to impress here as England's prospective third seamer against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi, managed to extract a little bounce from a very slow surface.

He was deployed in an efficient burst of 4-3-1-1 after Anderson and Broad got three and five-over spells under their belts to start the tour.

Over to spin, Moeen twice struck with a change of pace and trajectory - flatter deliveries accounting first for opener Khurram Manzoor, caught at slip, and then pinning Ali Asad lbw.

Adil Rashid found some turn, beating left-hander Alam's outside edge with his googly, before becoming more erratic and expensive as spin inevitably took up the bulk of the workload.

Four pace bowlers continued to operate in inevitable short spells, with Broad and Anderson rested up to take the second new ball.

By then, Alam was gone at last - skying an attempted slog-sweep at Moeen to Broad at mid-on after reaching his 50 off 137 balls - and Iftikhar had been dropped again, by Anderson at slip off Rashid on 61.

Anderson did not get the direction he wanted but nonetheless picked up the wicket of Usman Salahuddin at only his second attempt with the new ball, caught-behind down the leg-side.

But Iftikhar, who finished with five fours and two sixes from 209 deliveries, appeared to finish freshest as Anderson leaked late runs to new batsman Adnan Akmal and England's toils began to show a little.

  Moeen Ali's bowling was a positive for England in their opening tour match
Moeen Ali's bowling was a positive for England in their opening tour match