IAN BELL congratulated James Taylor on his brilliant return to Test cricket as England moved into position to take a telling lead over Pakistan in the third Test in Sharjah.
Taylor, whose first taste of Test cricket was so short-lived in 2012, had to wait more than three years for his next opportunity here.
He [James Taylor] played brilliantly today... I really enjoyed batting with himIan Bell
But the 25-year-old was back, to the manner born, with a maiden half-century at the highest level as England reached 222 for four at stumps on day two in reply to 234. They now have an obvious chance to take charge of this final match, and eke out a 1-1 series draw.
Bell was in situ when Taylor (74no) started his innings, with England stuttering on 97 for three after the loss of two quick wickets at the start of the second session.
But, eight years Taylor’s senior and with an extra 115 Tests under his belt, England’s hugely-experienced No 3 knew instinctively that he did not need to babysit his new partner.
He said: “I left him alone. He’s a smart enough cricketer, a busy cricketer – and that’s what we saw today, the way he swept, used his feet and running between the wickets.”
The pair shared a hard-working stand of 42, the glue between the more substantial partnerships of Bell and Alastair Cook’s 71 for the second wicket and then Taylor and Jonny Bairstow’s unbroken 83 for the fifth. Bell said: “He played brilliantly today. That was a great way to go out and start again, I suppose.
“He’s a very good player of spin, really quick feet, and he’s showed today he’s a very good sweeper as well.
“It’s exactly what he’d have liked, and I’m sure he’s sat in there very happy – and so he should be.”
The two complemented one another well, as they had when joining forces at the same venue in a tour fixture last month.
“I really enjoyed batting with him as well,” added Bell, impressed at the way Taylor has battled his way back into the Test team.
“It shows good character to go back to county cricket, grind out runs, and then in the one-day series against Australia.
“With any opportunity he’s had, he’s grabbed it. I hope this is the start for him to kick on.
“He’s got a lot of ability, and I hope we’re going to see that over the next few years.”
It was far from an easy re-introduction either, after Cook had gone to Yasir Shah for the third time in as many innings and then Joe Root fell cheaply to left-arm seamer Rahat Ali. “I felt like I recognised that, after lunch, they were going to go hard at us when they had that ‘reverse’,” said Bell.
“The two left-armers came in giving it absolutely everything. We saw in [the second-Test defeat in] Dubai how that changed the game – they got four wickets in a very short period of time, and put us right on the back foot. We could have been in a similar situation if we hadn’t got through that.”
Rahat made short work of world No 1 batsman Root, but Pakistan could not shift Taylor
“We were trying to attack him with reverse-swing,” said Rahat. “But he adjusted well, and we couldn’t come up with the right plan to get him out.”
Bell was eventually stumped for a hard-working 40, which took more than three-and-a-half hours.
He said: “Today was [just] about trying to get the job done. I think I only scored 16 runs in that session, but it was about recognising that was a key period of the game – with me and ‘Titch’ in there – to get through that together, and try to cash in after tea.
“It wasn’t the best knock of my life, but I feel I contributed towards scrapping out a tough day’s Test cricket because I thought Pakistan, through the day, were very good as well.
“I’ve had three opportunities to go big, and not quite done it.
“I’m disappointed it’s not me this game, but it feels like I’m going in the right direction.”