Cricket

Cook fairytale ton edges England closer to 4-1 win


INDIA TOUR OF ENGLAND, 2018

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Cook made 147 in his final innings in international cricket. © Getty

This was a day that nobody who was at The Oval will ever forget. When Alastair Cook reached his 33rd Test hundred in his final innings, a dream send-off for this magnificent cricketer was complete. It was perhaps better than anyone could have dared imagine before the match began. When he got there, everyone inside the ground stood to applaud, an ovation which went on for well over two minutes. It will live long in the memory.

In Cook’s first Test, in Nagpur in 2006, he made a half-century and a hundred and he has done the same here, adding a nice symmetry to what has been a remarkable career. In the process today, he passed the great Sri Lankan Kumar Sangakkara to become the fifth highest Test run scorer of all-time and the leading left-hander. He now has ten more centuries than any other Englishman.

Cook’s runs, in addition to a century from captain Joe Root, put England in command of this match and odds-on to wrap up a 4-1 series victory sometime tomorrow. Beginning the day with a lead of 154, that had moved on to 463 when Root declared half an hour after tea. Three Indian wickets fell before the close, with Anderson taking two to move level with Glenn McGrath at 563 wickets, and England, you’d think, more or less have sealed the victory.

Cook’s hundred came in strange fashion with a five thanks to four overthrows from Jasprit Bumrah after the left-hander had nudged the ball into the off-side for a single. Bumrah shied at the bowler’s end, missed and the ball raced away to the boundary as Cook ran through with arms outstretched, just as he had when he reached three figures 12 years ago in Nagpur. The 18,00 strong Oval crowd rose as one and Cook soaked up an ovation that stretched on for long.

Root’s century was his first for 28 innings since he scored 136 against West Indies at Edgbaston last August. He has scored 11 half-centuries in the 16 Tests since then but has not been able to convert and he nearly failed to do so here when, on 94, Cheteshwar Pujara dropped him at first slip. Earlier in the day, he was also dropped at slip, this time by Ajinka Rahane, off Ravi Jadeja on 46. But as much as Cook’s hundred was the moment of the summer, Root’s century was absolutely vital for both him and the future of this team.

England were busy from the off, adding 129 runs in the morning session and then 121 between lunch and tea, in search of a suitable declaration total. Both Root and Cook have struggled in the series so far but they looked in fine touch here. Cook clipped Bumrah sweetly off his hip in the second over to reach his half-century and shortly afterwards, Root swept Jadeja for two boundaries in an over.

India stuck to their task well enough but the dropped catches and the overthrows suggested their minds may already be on the plane home. There were five penalty runs too when wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant dropped the ball onto the helmet on the ground behind him. It has been a tough, compelling match-up but with the series lost, the visitors struggled to rouse themselves on a day where the bowlers found perhaps the least assistance they had in all of the five Tests. It was arguably the least competitive day of the series, too.

Root and Cook added 259 for the third wicket before off-spinner Hanuma Vihari removed them both in successive balls midway through the day. Root, slog-sweeping, was caught on the deep midwicket boundary and next ball, with the batsmen having crossed, Cook was caught behind cutting. He trudged off for the last time in Test cricket to yet another standing ovation. We may never see his like again.

The dismissals of Root and Cook were the start of a flurry of wickets as England searched for quick runs. Jonny Bairstow was bowled by Mohammed Shami after hitting three crunching boundaries and Jos Buttler lasted just two balls as Jadeja picked up his sixth wicket of the match. Some clean hitting from Ben Stokes powered England past 400 before he was caught off Jadeja trying to clear the ropes and Sam Curran was then caught off Vihari before Root called them in.

That set India 464 runs to win the Test which was always going to be some effort given the highest fourth innings total ever made at The Oval in Test cricket is 429, made by India back in 1979 to save the game. They got off to the worst possible start here when Anderson pinned Shikar Dhawan LBW, plumb in front, in the third over. Three balls later, Cheteshwar Pujara was given out in the same manner for Anderson to draw level with McGrath. In the next over, Stuart Broad had Virat Kohli caught behind for a golden duck and The Oval was jumping.

Rahul and Rahane played out the rest of the overs to take India to stumps at 58/3, but India already look down and out.

Alastair Cook had grabbed the headlines on the day, and it will be James Anderson’s to do so on the morrow as England move in for the kill.

Brief scores: India 292 & 58/3 (KL Rahul 46*; James Anderson 2-23) trail England 332 & 423/8d (Alastair Cook 147, Joe Root 125; Hanuma Vihari 3-37) by 405 runs

© Cricbuzz

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