Opener Alastair Cook struck a fighting hundred to prop up a struggling England batting display against a Pakistan Cricket Board XI in their second three-day tour match in Dubai on Wednesday.
The 27-year-old left-hander hit an attractive 133 to lift England, sent into bat, to 269-9 declared on the opening day of the match played at the Global Cricket Academy.
In reply the PCB XI were 22-0 at close, with openers Nasir Jamshed on 12 and Afaq Raheem on 10.
Apart from Cook, Matt Prior (46) and Kevin Pietersen (38) were the only top-order batsmen to get some runs as Andrew Strauss (3), Jonathan Trott (0), Ian Bell (0) and Eoin Morgan (11) flopped again.
That left England much to think about ahead of the first Test against Pakistan, starting here from Tuesday.
Cook, who made 76 and 24 in England's three-wicket win in the first tour match, held the innings together by adding 83 for the third wicket with Pietersen and had a fighting stand of 90 with Prior for the sixth.
He was finally dismissed, caught behind by Sarfraz Ahmed off Talha before England declared the innings. Cook hit 10 boundaries during his 260-ball knock and looked untroubled throughout.
Talha finished with 4-43.
It was leg-spinner Yasir Shah who rattled the middle-order with figures of 5-75.
Talha, part of Pakistan's 16-man Test squad, dismissed Strauss and Trott in his first spell before Pietersen and Cook repaired the early damage.
Shah broke the partnership when he dismissed Pietersen soon after lunch and followed that with wickets of Bell in his next over and then got Morgan to leave England struggling at 5-121.
Prior, who hit seven boundaries during his fiery 57-ball knock, helped Cook take England past 200-mark.
England batting coach Graham Gooch said he was not overly worried about batsmen not coming good.
"I don't have concerns. But everyone would like to spend time in the middle, and if they miss out they might feel they're a little bit short on confidence but you've got to believe in yourself, think back to when you've done well," said Gooch, praising Cook.
"He's come up with some runs in a part of the world where it's a bit slow and you've got to get into the tempo of the play and work a bit harder for your runs."