INDIA TOUR OF ENGLAND, 2018
Cricbuzz Staff •
Alastair Cook celebrates getting to his hundred on Day 4 of the Oval Test. © Getty
English fans walked in to The Oval on Monday (September 10) hoping for a fairytale ending for what has been a glorious career, and they weren’t disappointed. Before this game, no opener had managed a single fifty-plus score in this series. Alastair Cook set that record straight in the first innings with a fine knock of 71 in a stonewalling effort that provided England a base. But his best was reserved for the last. Resuming the penultimate day of the series on 46, with England hoping to bat India out of the game, Cook delivered for one final time with a century in his last outing. And he wasn’t finished yet as he walked back unbeaten on 103 at Lunch, having put 181 runs in an unbroken third wicket association with Joe Root (92*) to power England to 243 for 2 at the break, leading by 283 runs.
As Cook walked out to bat at The Oval on the fourth morning, continuing his final essay in Test cricket from the previous evening, he didn’t show any signs of nervousness and wasn’t overawed by the situation. As far as he was concerned, it was another day in the office, one that wasn’t any different to what he had been doing in his 12 years of service to English cricket. With England resuming the day with a lead of 154 with eight wickets in hand, Cook’s immediate job was to cut off any avenues for India to sneak back into the game, and he went about doing that with a positive brand of cricket.
Having clipped Jasprit Bumrah to the leg-side boundary to become only the second batsmen to register fifty-plus scores in both innings of his first and last Tests, Cook displayed good footwork against Ravindra Jadeja as he leaned into a cover drive before rocking back to execute a late cut past the point region for a four. With Root for company, England’s third wicket pair got busy adding to the lead as the pair rotated the strike well and did not allow the bowlers to have an extended go at one batsman.
With Ishant off the field after bowling only one over to tend to some pain in his left ankle, Bumrah and Jadeja bowled in tandem with the former employing short-ball tactics while the latter concentrated on bowling at the stumps. Bumrah, despite keeping the batsmen on their toes, wasn’t able to reap any rewards apart from leaving Root in an awkward position fending away to gully where, unfortunately, a fielder wasn’t positioned. Jadeja didn’t trouble the batsmen much as Root grew in confidence as the session progressed, beginning to employ the sweep to the spinner for two fours in an over. He soon registered his second fifty-plus score of the series, before coming down the track and thumping one over long-on for a maximum. Root also had a lucky break before he reached the half-century mark, being put down by Ajinkya Rahane at first slip.
While the first hour was all about keeping the bowlers in check and denying any wickets, the second was about milestones. Cook became the most successful left-hander in Test history, going past Kumar Sangakkara’s tally of 12400 Test runs, he was involved in a century stand for the 77th time in his career, only bettered by Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting. He also became the second highest run-getter against India in Tests as he steadily made his way towards a three-figure score in his final act. At the other end, Root was catching up quickly with his partner, dealing in regular boundaries as he helped England past the 200-run mark.
The impending retirement meant that Cook didn’t carry any baggage into this game, evident by the way he played his shots as he took the game further away from the visiting team. A delightful straight drive off Bumrah took him to 95 before he took a single off Jadeja, or so he thought, until an overthrow left him in surprise as he became only the fifth cricketer in Test history to score tons in his first and last Tests. This was his seventh ton against India, helping him go past Kevin Pietersen on the list of most hundreds for England against India and also his 13th in the second innings, helping him top that list as well as he surpassed Sangakkara in another record.
Brief scores: England 332 & 243/2 (Alastair Cook 103*, Joe Root 92*; Mohammed Shami 1-50) lead India 292 by 283 runs.