Alastair Cook helps England battle back in Dubai

Cook returns from brief honeymoon to steady England's ship in Dubai

Alastair Cook repaid England for permitting him a 36-hour honeymoon with 76 valuable runs on a tough second day for the tourists against an ICC Combined XI.

The England opener, and new husband, thanked his employers for their understanding in allowing him to join this tour of the United Arab Emirates a day and a half after his team-mates.

But the best reward will be runs in three forthcoming Tests against Pakistan, and Cook made a good start with the only significant contribution in England's 185 for eight declared.

Back in action: Alastair Cook returned to help England in Dubai

Back in action: Alastair Cook returned to help England in Dubai

Stuart Broad then took his match haul to six wickets as England's opponents continued the unlikely trend of batting failures, on a blameless pitch, to reach stumps on 90 for five and with a lead of 185 to start the final day on Monday.

Cook cited England's 'rustiness', in their first outing for several months, as the only plausible reason for their collective struggles.

But he also took his opportunity to mention his bride Alice in dispatches.

'We've been together for a while now, so I think she knew what she was marrying into – the life of a cricketer,' he said.

'She's a good girl.'

Cook has great memories of his wedding on New Year's Eve, attended by the majority of his team-mates, but just wishes there had been more time.

'It was an amazing day – a bit too short with the celebrations afterwards,' he said.

'Thirty-six hours can't really be allowed to constitute a honeymoon.

'I hope at some stage in the next 12 months we'll get to go away. But it was very kind of the ECB to give me that time.'

Alastair Cook returned for England

Alastair Cook is dismissed

Taking a swipe: Cook impressed with the bat before being dismissed (right)

As for his return to work, Cook added: 'I was kind of lucky I had a couple of plays-and misses early on.

'I missed rather than nicked, like a few of the other lads.'

England had expected to make many more, and Andrew Strauss' decision to declare – even so far behind – was part of the commitment to trying to win every match on tour rather than allowing warm-up matches to meander to stalemates.

'It wasn't ideal. I think we have to put that down to a little bit of rustiness,' Cook said of a batting display which featured an afternoon collapse of six wickets for 52 runs.

'But credit to the opposition, especially Boyd (Rankin). I thought he bowled very, very well.

'I think when you haven't batted outside for probably four months, with whites and a red ball, it does take a while to get into that rhythm. But it's not the end of the world.

Delight: Boyd Rankin (right) impressed for the ICC Combined XI

Delight: Boyd Rankin (right) impressed for the ICC Combined XI

'I think, if we'd batted better, we still would have pulled out to set up a game. One of [coach] Andy Flower's big things is to try and win these preparation games to make them competitive for us.

'They do lack that intensity of Test cricket, of course. But we try to get as much competitive cricket into us as possible, so that when we come to the first morning of that Test match we're ready for it.'

Should England face a feasible victory target they will do so against an attack containing spinner George Dockrell rather than Hamid Hassan.

The Afghan fast bowler went to hospital on a stretcher, after falling painfully over the boundary trying to stop a Cook boundary.

He was cleared of serious injury but will take no further part in this match, and England agreed to allow 12th man Dockrell to take his place.

The Combined XI's Irish fast bowler Rankin was thankful Hassan, whose injury held up proceedings for several minutes, emerged in better health than was initially feared.

'After he fell, he didn't really move for quite a long time,' he said.

'So we were fearing the worst at that stage, with his back.'