Master Chef rewrites history in Kolkata
The indefatigable Alastair Cook continued his assault on the record books by becoming England’s most prolific centurion in Test cricket as the tourists surged into a position of dominance on day two at Eden Gardens.
After India had been dismissed for a modest 316 in this third Test of four, Cook contributed 136 not out - his third three-figure score of the series - to help the tourists cruise to 216 for one in reply.
By registering his 23rd five-day hundred, the left-hander moved ahead of Wally Hammond, Colin Cowdrey, Geoff Boycott and current team-mate Kevin Pietersen in the list of England century-makers. Seventy-three years have passed since the mark of 22 was first set.
Cook’s extraordinary history-making exploits did not end there. He also became the youngest man to reach 7,000 runs in the premier form of the game today, replacing the great Sachin Tendulkar, and has now reached three figures in each of his five outings as Test captain. No other player has come close to matching the latter achievement.
With a placid pitch offering little assistance to the bowlers, England’s admirable efforts with the ball were soon put into context as Cook shared 165 with Nick Compton, who once again demonstrated resilience, defiance and a sound temperament in compiling his maiden Test fifty.
The Somerset batsman was eventually trapped lbw on the sweep by Pragyan Ojha for 57, but Jonathan Trott accompanied Cook to the close with an unbeaten 21.
Things could have been different had Cheteshwar Pujara not shelled a relatively straightforward chance at first slip off Zaheer Khan when Cook had 17 to his name.
From that moment on, the opener nicknamed 'Chef' did not offer a single chance. His defence remained as reliable as ever, while there were countless displays of confident strokeplay.
The cut proved a typically productive shot in Cook’s most fluent innings of the tour to date, yet a host of drives and sweeps were similarly effective and off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was planted down the ground for a huge straight six.
After the initial threat from Zaheer and Ishant had been watchfully blunted, India quickly ran out of ideas and appeared somewhat toothless as runs flowed freely for the remainder of the day.
England will now have their sights set on a substantial lead, as they bid to follow up their 10-wicket series-levelling victory in Mumbai with another notable triumph.
Monty Panesar had earlier removed Zaheer, lbw playing down the wrong line, and Ishant, who missed a straight one, in quick succession to dent India's hopes of adding significantly to their overnight score of 273 for seven.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni made it to 52 with the aid of two maximums off England's left-arm spinner, who returned 4-90, but he was then bounced out by Steven Finn.
Live Text Commentary
10:31am - STUMPS - Eng 216/1; Cook 136, Trott 21 - England will not have enjoyed many better days on the sub-continent. They trail by exactly 100 at stumps, with Cook having taken command following an early reprieve. There is still time for India to fight back, but the tourists will be eyeing a significant lead on day three. Join us then.
10:25am - Ishant gets a couple of deliveries to shape in towards Trott, who is content to leave alone as the ball sneaks past the stumps.
10:17am - With runs on the board, England won’t mind seeing the odd ball misbehave as this innings wears on. Ojha finds turn outside Trott’s off stump and the old cherry is also swinging for Zaheer, but England’s second-wicket pair are holding firm.
10:08am - Cook and Trott appear to be playing for the close now. A minimum of five overs remain, although we will probably have time for at least one more.
10:02am - Despite claiming the only Indian wicket thus far, Ojha has lacked consistency today. Trott capitalises on a full delivery with another leg-side four and India continue to look short of ideas in the field.
9:52am - A delivery from Ashwin goes on with the arm and slides past Trott’s loose drive. The number three is far more convincing in the next over when driving Ojha through his favoured midwicket region. It may not surprise you to read that Cook remains an unflustered presence.
9:44am - Ashwin sends down the loopiest of full tosses, the kind of delivery that I’d back myself to put away. It’s certainly not one that Cook is going to miss out on and the ball promptly disappears to the midwicket boundary. England have made swift progress since tea.
9:32am - Trott made first-innings ducks at Ahmedabad and Mumbai, but gets off the mark on this occasion by glancing Ojha to the fine-leg rope. Cook then leans into a glorious cover-drive against Zaheer. That’s as good as anything we’ve seen today. There is reverse-swing for the left-armer, however, so England will have to be careful when play resumes after drinks.
9:23am - A brace of fours off the returning Zaheer Khan takes Cook to 116 and he has now been joined by Jonathan Trott.
9:18am – WICKET! Compton lbw Ojha 57; Eng 165/1 - India have a breakthrough at last, although for a moment umpire Rod Tucker looked like he was going to reject Ojha’s lbw appeal. In the end, the dreaded finger went up after Compton had been struck in front on the sweep. There may have been a hint of glove, but replays are inconclusive. That brings an end to a wonderful opening partnership.
9:12am - CENTURY! Cook (179b 14x4 1x6) - History is made at Eden Gardens!!! The magnificent Alastair Cook sweeps for three and now boasts 23 Test hundreds, more than any other England batsman. Words cannot do justice to the achievements of this man.
9:07am – Cook slog-sweeps Ojha for four to reach 98...
9:01am - Runs continue to come relatively easily for England’s opening pair and Cook is edging ever closer to that precious 23rd century.
8:52am - FIFTY! Compton (123b 5x4 1x6) - Well played Nick Compton! He brings up a maiden Test fifty with a pulled single off Ishant and can be extremely proud of the application he has showed.
8:47am - Cook cuts Ishant for four and then collects three more into the off side to reach 7,000 Test runs. Another day and another landmark for England’s captain. He’s the youngest player in history to reach this milestone, replacing a certain SR Tendulkar.
8:42am - That’s not the start Ishant Sharma was looking for after lunch. He over-steps and concedes four down to third man when bowling to Compton. Ravichandran Ashwin is on from the other end and sends a flatter delivery past Compton’s outside edge.
8:32am – Here come Alastair Cook and Nick Compton once again. The former is 20 runs shy of becoming England’s most prolific Test centurion.
8:12am – TEA - Eng 121/0; Cook 80, Compton 41 - The perfect session for England. After surviving a few scares immediately after lunch, when the captain was dropped off Zaheer, Cook and Compton have gradually grown in confidence. In the last hour, India’s attack has appeared somewhat toothless.
8:03am - Following a hugely ambitious lbw appeal from Ashwin, Cook feasts on a half-volley with another drive through the covers. Ojha then drops short and is tucked around the corner by Compton.
7:54am - CENTURY PARTNERSHIP - Compton cuts Ojha for four to bring up the hundred stand. Keep going chaps...
7:52am - New ball please! The first one has only lasted 35.3 overs before losing its shape. India will hope they can get a little more life out of the replacement.
7:48am - Cook collects his 10th four courtesy of an effortless push into the covers off Ashwin. There is plenty of work still to do, but this is all going rather swimmingly right now.
7:39am - India appeal as an Ashwin delivery pops up off Compton’s boot to silly point. That appeared to be more out of desperation than anything else. Cook then scampers through for a single to mid-off and ends up with five as Yuvraj Singh’s throw flies past the stumps to the fine-leg boundary. England now have 86 on the board.
7:32am - That really is quite brilliant from Compton. After defending resolutely for 75 balls, he leaves the crease and smashes Ojha over long-on for six. A fine catch from the ball boy as well - good cricket all round! India need a spark here; they started the session strongly but have not posed much of a threat in the last half-hour. As I type that, Cook plays and misses on the cut to Ojha.
7:20am - FIFTY! Cook (87b 9x4 1x6) - Pragyan Ojha is introduced, somewhat belatedly I would suggest given his previous success in this series. He begins with a maiden to Compton, who is playing a fine supporting role. The more fluent Cook drives Zaheer down the ground for four and then grabs a quick single to reach 50. What a series he is having!
7:10am - Zaheer takes over from a tiring Ishant, who can feel somewhat unfortunate not to have claimed a wicket. That drop from Pujara is appearing increasingly costly as the tourists continue to reduce their arrears. Time for a drink in Kolkata.
6:59am - Cook comes close to playing on as Ishant gets one to nip back, but the ball drops safely by the batsman’s feet. A half-volley is then clipped to the left of mid-on for another four before an inside-edge off Ashwin races away to fine-leg. The captain now has 43 of England’s 60.
6:51am - In his first Test outing since January, Ishant is performing admirably. However, when the recalled paceman finally errs in length, Cook connects sweetly with a drive through the covers. If that was good, an even better stroke follows as Cook dances down the track to plant Ashwin back over his head for six! The fifty partnership is brought up later in the over.
6:43am - The shackles are broken as Cook sweeps powerfully for four before using his feet to pick up a quick single to mid-off. He is clearly wary of England getting bogged down here. An edge from Compton then runs down to the third man fence.
6:39am - Compton nibbles at one from Ishant he could easily have left alone - a rare lapse in concentration from the patient 29-year-old. England are finding runs hard to come by at the moment as Ravichandran Ashwin returns at the Pavilion End.
6:34am - There is some confusion as to why Virender Sehwag, India’s regular first slip, has been replaced by Pujara, particularly when the latter is still wearing protective equipment. Cook, a centurion in each of his four Tests as skipper, is certainly the last man the hosts would want to drop.
6:26am - DROPPED CHANCE - Ishant Sharma finds the perfect length and forces Alastair Cook to play and miss on two occasions. The England captain then survives a huge let-off as Cheteshwar Pujara spills a low chance at first slip off Zaheer. For some reason, Pujara, who often fields at short-leg, was wearing shinpads in the cordon, which can’t have helped his movement. The ball is starting to swing a little more now.
6:14am - Nick Compton kicks off the afternoon session with a confident clip through square-leg for four that highlights just how fast this outfield is at Eden Gardens. Zaheer Khan responds well by beating the opener outside off stump.
5:31am - LUNCH - Eng 22/0; Cook 17, Compton 5 - Ravichandran Ashwin is given a bowl before lunch and starts with a maiden to the watchful Cook. There is a change of ends for Ishant, but he can find no way through and England will be thrilled with that session.
5:23am - Another controlled edge from Cook brings four more, this time off Ishant. Zaheer, who is now operating from over the wicket, then finds a little bit of shape into the right-handed Compton at the end of his fifth over.
5:14am - Ishant has dismissed Cook on six occasions in Tests, although one of those did come after the opener had reached 294 at Edgbaston last year! Zaheer comes round the wicket to Compton but England’s newest cap is up to the challenge.
5:04am - Compton is untroubled as he plays out a maiden from Ishant. England’s captain then does well to keep out a Zaheer delivery that kept low. Although there has not been much in this pitch for the bowlers, we did witness uneven bounce as early as the first morning. This remains a good track, however, and Cook picks up four more with a leg-glance.
4:55am – India have tended to utilise at least one spinner from the off in this series, but it is the gangly figure of Ishant Sharma who shares the fresh nut with Zaheer today. Nick Compton gets off the mark with a push into the covers and collects a second courtesy of an overthrow. Cook then plays with soft hands and edges Zaheer down to third man for a second boundary.
4:46am - Zaheer Khan takes the new ball for India and may well be a key man in this innings due to his ability to gain reverse-swing. There is little conventional movement on offer for the left-arm seamer in his first over and Alastair Cook, a centurion in each of his four Tests as captain, cuts to the point boundary to get England up and running.
4:33am- WICKET! Dhoni c Swann b Finn 52; Ind 316 all out - Finn is introduced in place of Anderson and Dhoni moves past 50 with a thrash through the covers. India won’t be adding any more to their total, however, as Finn responds with an excellent bouncer that pops off the bat handle to Swann, who was stood quite wide at slip.
4:24am – Graeme Swann replaces Panesar at the Pavilion End, but Ojha defends stoutly. Anderson then makes it three maidens in a row.
4:16am – Dhoni plays a clever chip shot that falls short of long-off at the end of Panesar’s latest over. I wonder if Alastair Cook is tempted to give Steven Finn a quick burst here; it may be difficult to manipulate singles off the giant paceman. A maiden from Anderson ensures England will get another crack at Ojha.
4:08am - That’s a little sloppy from England. After Pragyan Ojha had scrambled a leg bye, Dhoni is allowed to rush through for a single to mid-on and therefore retains the strike again.
4:03am - The field scatters once again for Dhoni, who is now in serious danger of being left stranded. Three further singles are rejected before a pull to deep square-leg enables the wicketkeeper-batsman to stay on strike for the next set of six. Dhoni initially defends quietly against Panesar, only to then strike two huge maximums down the ground.
3:53am – WICKET! Ishant b Panesar 0; Ind 296/9 - Panesar is doing the business for England. He takes his wicket-tally to four as Ishant misses a straight ball to be comprehensively bowled. Just one more wicket to go!
3:51am - We can expect to see even more aggression now from Dhoni, who has been joined by the recalled Ishant Sharma. With several men on the boundary, India’s captain refuses a series of singles before pulling confidently for four. However, he is unable to keep the strike at the end of the over.
3:46am - WICKET! Zaheer lbw Panesar 6; Ind 292/8 - There is a hint of turn for Panesar this morning and the left-arm spinner beats Dhoni’s edge with a beauty. Later in the over, Zaheer falls plumb lbw propping forward. That will make Swann and Anderson feel much better!
3:42am - DROPPED CHANCE - Frustration for England. After a quiet over from Monty Panesar, Anderson locates the edge of Zaheer Khan’s bat, only for Graeme Swann to put down a chance at second slip. The next ball sails over Matt Prior’s head for five wides before Zaheer finds the midwicket fence with a wild slog.
3:34am - With only the tail for company, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has to go on the offensive this morning. He drills the second ball of the day, from James Anderson, back past the bowler for four. Seven runs come from the opening over and that's a good start to the day for India.
3:28am - Here we go then ... day two is about to begin!
3:20am - If the hosts are to fight back with the bat this morning, Mahendra Singh Dhoni is likely to be a central figure. India’s skipper has 22 to his name and would love to keep England in the field for at least another hour.
3:10am - James Anderson was the undoubted star of the show yesterday. The seamer’s mastery of reverse-swing was in full evidence as he claimed three valuable wickets, including the scalp of Sachin Tendulkar for 76. Anderson and Co will now hope to wrap up India’s first-innings as swiftly as possible this morning.
3am - Morning all. England enjoyed a fine opening day at Eden Gardens and now face the challenge of strengthening their position in this third Test of four with India. The hosts will resume on 273 for seven, having struggled to take advantage of favourable batting conditions upon winning the toss.