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Rediff.com  » Cricket » Fantastic Cook leads England fightback

Fantastic Cook leads England fightback

November 18, 2012 17:11 IST

Alastair Cook led from the front to inspire an England comeback on Day Four of the opening Test against India in Motera on Sunday.

- Scorecard

The England captain scored a fantabulous 168 to help his side reach 340 for five in their second innings.

He was ably supported in his effort by Matt Prior, the stumper contributing an equally well-made 84 and playing a significant part in a 141-run sixth wicket stand that not only helped England recover from a perilous position (199 for five) but also ensured India would have to bat a second time.

With the pitch slowing down considerably, both the Indian spinners failed to have an impact in the manner they did in the English first innings.

R Ashwin, in particular, was disappointing, conceding in excess of 100 runs and going wicketless. When the wicket is not doing much the off spinner has generally struggled, so far in his fledgling career, and Sunday's effort (rather lack of it) reiterated his ineffectiveness in an unfriendly terrain.

Ojha too ended up giving away in excess of 100 runs. However, he was far more effective and had a couple of wickets to show for his effort.

However, the day was all about Cook.

The England captain, resuming on 74, played the sheet anchor's role to perfection, carrying his bat through the day.

The 27-year-old registered his 21st Test century en route, to join Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Strauss (also 21 each) in second place in the list of most century makers for England -- the trio of Wally Hammond, Colin Cowdrey and Geoffrey Boycott lead the pack with 22 century apiece.

It was Cook's fifth hundred in subcontinent (in 12 Tests), the most by an England batsman besting Ken Barrington -- four centuries in eight Tests.

Alastair CookBesides, his aggregate (168 not out) is the fourth highest individual score by a foreigner on Indian soil -- after Clive Lloyd (242 in Mumbai in 1975), Alvin Kallicharan (187 in Mumbai in 1978) and Inzamam-ul-Haq (184 in Bangalore in 2005).

More importantly, it ensured England avoid the ignominy of an innings defeat, forced India to bat a second time and took the match into a fifth day – all the possibilities looking highly unlikely at the start of the day.

Morning session (71 runs, 31 overs, 3 wickets)

England began looking to consolidate and an authoritative drive by Cook (off Zaheer) past point signalled the intention.

The visitors survived half an hour (seven overs) sans damage.

Compton (on 36) was fortunate as Dhoni messed up an easy stumping chance, Ashwin suffering as a result.

However, Zaheer Khan saved his captain the blushes by trapping the batsman leg before. Compton's 128-ball 37 included just two boundaries but he did help Cook put on 123 runs for the opening wicket.

An out of form Jonathan Trott survived 43 balls, hitting two fours in his 17, and helping his captain put on 33 runs for the second wicket.

However, his dismissal came in at a time when his team could ill-afford it. Pragyan Ojha replaced Ashwin (9-1-19-0 on the day) in the 58th over and struck first ball, having Trott caught behind. It was the left-arm spinner's sixth wicket of the match.

Ojha got his second of the innings, seventh of the match, shortly after when he bowled Kevin Pietersen (2) for a second time in the match.

Ian Bell came out to join his captain and started with a boundary wide of mid-off.

A couple off Umesh Yadav helped Cook complete a well-deserved hundred. It was the 21st Test hundred for the England captain, his third against India.

The 27-year-old had scored an unbeaten 104 (in the second innings) on debut against India at Nagpur in March 2006. Besides, who could forget that incredible 294 at Edgbaston last year.

England went into lunch on 182 for three (after 69 overs).

Post-lunch session (82 runs, 31 overs, 2 wickets)

It took eight overs before India made their first breakthrough in the second session.

Umesh Yadav had Bell (22) out leg before. The batsman was unfortunate as replays suggested the ball was going down the leg side. England was undone by the lack of DRS yet again.

Bell's 59-ball knock was inclusive of three boundaries and he helped Cook put on 39 runs for the fourth wicket.

Yadav struck again with his next ball, having Samit Patel out leg before, the snicko later suggesting there might have been an inside edge.

Having been jolted twice in space of two balls, England needed a partnership that would prevent their innings from falling apart. And that is precisely what they got.

In walked Matt Prior, their highest scorer in the first innings (with 48), and the English keeper helped his captain in providing the side the stability that it so desperately required.

The two put on a 50-plus partnership for the sixth wicket and ensured their team suffered no further damage going into the break.

England headed into tea at 264 for five (in 100 overs), requiring another 66 to make India bat again.

Alastair Cook was batting on 138 and giving him company was Matt Prior on 40, the two having put on 65 runs for the sixth wicket.

Post-tea session (76 runs, 28 overs, 0 wickets)

With Ashwin (34-7-90-0 at tea) failing to make an impact, Dhoni handed the ball to Yuvraj shortly after tea.

A couple in Yuvraj's second over helped Prior complete a well-deserved half century. It's the England stumper's 3rd Test fifty, his fourth against India.

Yuvraj also helped the England captain reach a milestone. A couple in the bowler's third over ensured Cook his 150.

It's the 27-year-old's sixth 150-plus score.

A boundary off Ojha, Prior's sixth, helped England reach the 300-run mark in the 110th over. The shot also brought fourth the 100-run partnership for the sixth wicket.

Prior continued his aggression against Ojha, two boundaries in the spinner's 42nd over helping the visitors lead for the first time in the match.

At stumps, Cook was unbeaten on 168, his 341-ball knock inclusive of 20 hits to the fence, and helping him in his endeavour was an equally resolute Prior, his 190-ball innings consisting of 10 boundaries.