SHARJAH - England batsmen tuned up for the Test series against Pakistan starting next week with Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root and skipper Alastair Cook hitting half-centuries in a two-day match against Pakistan A on Monday.

Bairstow hit an unbeaten 66 while Root (59) and Cook (53) showed good pre-series form as England made 286-5 on the first day of the match at Sharjah stadium. Bairstow hit four boundaries and a six during his 112-ball stay and confidently negotiated a variety of spin, something which England will have to face in the first Test against Pakistan starting in Abu Dhabi from October 13. Root hit five boundaries in his 97-ball knock to continue the form which helped him win the man-of-the-series award in England’s 3-2 Ashes triumph against Australia back home in August.

“You want to start the tour as you mean to go on,” said Root. “It’s very pleasing to see us start off as well as this on the first day of our trip. “Personally, it was great... very valuable — to get used to the surroundings, the heat, the surface... and facing lots of overs of spin which, after an English summer, is not something you’re necessarily accustomed to.

Root admitted the heat will be a challenge. “It’s going to be hard work. But there’s no point moaning about it — ‘poor me’ is not for our team. We’ve just got to get on with it.” Root said he felt refreshed after being rested for the one-day series against Australia last month. “I definitely feel like I benefited from it. It’s very important that you don’t drop off... lose performance through tiredness or over-playing. “I feel really fresh now, and raring to go for this series. “I’ll crack on now and make sure I’m absolutely ready for whatever Pakistan throw at us in that first game.”

Cook was also in good nick, playing 130 balls before becoming one of three wickets for left-arm spinner Zafar Gohar. Gohar, who as 16th member of the Pakistan squad is one of few players on the selectors’ test radar, took 3-72 while paceman Zia-ul Haq and Iftikhar Ahmed took a wicket apiece. Moeen Ali, favourite to open the innings with Cook in Tests, made 22 after England won the toss and decided to bat.

Middle-order batsmen Ian Bell (19) and Jos Butler (one) — also fell to Gohar, while Ben Stokes made six. But they all have one more practice game, also against the same opposition at the same venue on October 8 and 9, to get into runs.