Cook ton puts woeful India to the sword
Birmingham: Alastair Cook cracked a monumental unbeaten 182 as England tightened their stranglehold over a hapless India by taking a substantial 232-run lead in the third Test here on Thursday.
Responding to India’s paltry first-innings total of 224, Cook notched up his 19th Test century to guide England to an imposing 456 for three at close on the second day.
Captain Andrew Strauss (87 off 176 balls), Kevin Pietersen (63 off 78), Eoin Morgan (44 batting) and Ian Bell (34 off 43) were the other notable performers on a Edgbaston track which seemed to have no demons, allowing the batsmen to score freely.
Morgan was giving the in-form Cook company when stumps were drawn to bring to an end another hard day for the visitors.
The Indian bowlers lacked sting to pose any sort of trouble to the strong English batting line-up, which added 372 runs in 90 overs after resuming from their overnight score of 84 for no loss.
England will now look to take a massive first-innings lead and push for a victory, which will not only give them an unassailable 3-0 lead but also the number ranking in this form of the game.
India did manage a couple of successes in the session between lunch and tea but nothing could quell England’s progress as they scored at a brisk pace in an extended session following a delayed start due to rain.
After a cautious start by Strauss and Cook in the morning, during which the duo added 73 runs, England upped the tempo in the next two sessions to pile up a massive total and leave the visitors totally demoralised.
Cook hung around the whole day and shared impressive partnerships of 186, 66, 122 and 82 runs with Strauss, Bell, Pietersen and Morgan as the India wilted under pressure.
What also didn’t help India’s cause was the chances that went begging.
While Rahul Dravid muffed twice — once giving Bell a reprieve at first slip, and then dropping a sitter in the day’s last over to give Morgan a life off Suresh Raina, Sachin Tendulkar was slow to react when Bell clipped one off his hips.
Morgan was earlier provided a let-off when Sreesanth dropped him off Ishant Sharma on 17.
Otherwise, England didn’t give India an inch.
The three sessions produced 73, 162 and 137 runs.
Resuming this morning on 27, Cook played an unblemished knock to bring up his third century of the season and become the year’s highest run-getter in Tests.
In all the left-hander has so far batted for 489 minutes, faced 339 balls and hit 26 fours.
Earlier, England went about their task in a patient manner, looking to consolidate instead of playing to the gallery, though Bell and Pietersen did play some fancy shots.
England openers batted through the curtailed morning session — half an hour was lost due to early showers — and were well into the middle session when Strauss swept a delivery from leg-spinner Amit Mishra on to his stumps even as TV replays later showed that the bowler had overstepped.
Two more wickets came in the form of Bell and Pietersen – both fell to the guile of Praveen Kumar, but they never proved to be enough.
Cook was happy to play within himself, except for a few thundering pulls.
England began slowly as Kumar bowled four maiden overs on the trot, but runs gradually began to flow as the bowlers erred in line and length.
Brakes were again applied in the afternoon session with Strauss in particular being stifled by Mishra’s negative line.
Bell, after his century in the second Test at Trent Bridge, looked in superb nick and hit Sharma for five fours in no time.
As soon as Sharma was taken off the attack, the scoring dropped and it paid dividends as Bell was bowled by a beauty of a leg-cutter from Kumar.
Pietersen too began with a flurry of strokes, almost toying with the Indian attack as he completed his half century from a mere 53 balls with seven fours and a six.
The tall batsman looked untroubled against the second new ball which was taken as soon as it was due after 80 overs.
But Kumar struck again, winning a lbw shout against Pietersen, who hit nine fours and a six during his stay at the crease.
To be fair to the Indians, all their bowlers bowled well in patches though Mishra, despite a wicket, was guilty of bowling eight no-balls.
The Indians even brought Tendulkar to turn his arm over in the final minutes but that did not bring them any success. (PTI)