ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates - England opener Alastair Cook wasn't surprised his team lost three quick late wickets after Jonathan Trott was removed to end their 139-run stand in the second test against Pakistan on Thursday.

Pakistan fought back to take 3-9 with Saeed Ajmal dismissing Cook (94), Kevin Pietersen (14) and Eoin Morgan (3) in his last five overs to restrict England to 207-5 for a lead of 50 runs.

Cook said the pitch at Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi has subcontinent-like qualities and can cause wickets to fall in bunches.

"As a fielding side we always know when you get one (wicket), as a team, you can go bang, bang," Cook said. "We set our stall out to bat for a long period of time, and for 99 per cent of the day we did it really well. Obviously the last 20 minutes didn't go to plan, but it was still a good day for England."

Cook fell agonizingly short of his 20th test century when he was trapped leg before wicket by Ajmal, and the left-hander chose to walk instead of utilizing one of the two television referrals.

Cook dealt with Ajmal for most of the day in hitting 10 boundaries in 220 balls before the offspinner's first success in his 25th over.

"It's always hard work for the new guy coming in," Cook said. "And when you've got an opportunity, when you know only 20 minutes left, you can really attack the opposition knowing they can't attack you.

"Obviously, they jumped in very well then."

England's batsmen struggled in the first test, losing by 10 wickets in Dubai last week, with Cook scoring 3 and 5 in his team's two below-par totals of 192 and 160.

Despite struggling early against the spinners before lunch, Cook settled in well with Trott and batted for nearly five hours.

"It's always frustrating when you've worked so hard to get a milestone, to fall short of it," Cook said. "As the ball gets slightly older and the seam is less pronounced, it gets slightly harder (to face Ajmal).

"I do think I can pick him the majority of the time, but like any batter you make mistakes."

England will be aiming to build a decent lead on a pitch which has helped the spinners and on which batting last will be difficult against the likes of Ajmal.

"We're only 50 behind," Cook said. "We got Belly (Ian Bell) and (Matt) Prior, (the two) excellent players at the crease now and our lower order did well in Dubai."