Unstoppable Cook propels England
Alastair Cook batted throughout day two of the third npower Test at Edgbaston to put England on course for series victory with a game to spare.
The left-handed opener had faced 339 balls and struck 26 fours when he walked off unbeaten for a second consecutive evening, this time on 182 in a total of 456 for three, a lead of 232.
Cook’s chanceless but occasionally streaky innings also kept the hosts in line to take over from their opponents at the top of the Test rankings immediately after this series, which they will achieve with a two-match win.
The 26-year-old went level on 19 Test centuries with Andrew Strauss, with whom he shared an opening stand of 186. Their fourth-highest alliance made significant inroads into the tourists’ 224.
Cook, his country’s most reliable batsman in the last 12 months with seven tons in 13 Tests, ebbed and flowed while team-mates also enjoyed beautiful batting conditions.
Strauss was unfortunate to be bowled for 87 by an Amit Mishra front-foot no-ball that umpire Simon Taufel failed to spot.
Ian Bell, batting at number three in place of the injured Jonathan Trott, was at his fluent best during a 66-run stand.
Bell had his off stump uprooted on 34 by Praveen Kumar’s pearler immediately after Cook had taken a single to move to three figures.
Kevin Pietersen dominated proceedings until Praveen, India’s outstanding bowler with figures of 2-75 from 32 overs, trapped him in front for 63. That ended a partnership worth 122 inside 23 overs.
Eoin Morgan, who had 44, and Cook put on a steadier unbroken 82 by which time England’s position in this contest was virtually impregnable.
Mid-morning rain delayed the start by half an hour, reduced the first session to 90 minutes and pushed tea plus the scheduled close back by half an hour, although play lasted a further 20 minutes.
Under cloud cover occasionally broken by sunshine, England resumed on 84 – 140 behind – with Strauss on 52 and Cook 27.
Praveen produced controlled swing to send down four consecutive maidens, his spell of seven overs costing only two runs.
Strauss’ single to leg off Sreesanth brought up his and Cook’s first century partnership in 10 innings since the Boxing Day at Melbourne.
It was slow going initially with the first boundary coming in the day’s 15th over, off Ishant Sharma, via Strauss’ outside edge. Strauss, again, and Cook profited from edged shots without offering chances as their scoring rate increased significantly.
Cook grew in authority and a second driven four in as many Sreesanth overs heralded his fifty and England’s 150.
Both batsmen swept Mishra after lunch, although that shot cost Strauss his wicket from what should have been the leg-spinner’s fifth no-ball in 10 overs.
Three Bell fours in an Ishant over took the hosts past 200 and he continued to look in the form of his life, his sixth four putting England in front.
Bell, who wore a black armband for a second day in memory of his late batting mentor Neal Abberley, was reprieved on 30 when Rahul Dravid dropped a regulation slip catch off Sreesanth.
Fours continued to flow with Cook’s 12th signalling a half-century alliance and his 14th England’s 250.
Following Bell’s fluent innings, Pietersen was quickly into his stride although he got off the mark with clip off Praveen just past leg slip.
Cook again enjoyed a moment of fortune when he inside-edged Ishant narrowly past his stumps for four.
Pietersen tucked into Mishra with a four and straight six, and in the next over Cook took Ishant for a pair of fours.
Landmarks still came in a hurry with England’s 300 and the half-century stand from 60 deliveries shortly before India claimed the new ball at the earliest opportunity.
A fresh cherry did not change the tempo, though, as Cook picked up two fours in Sreesanth’s next over.
The punishment carried on in the final session, Pietersen striking 14 from an Ishant over during which the 350 and century stand arrived, the latter from 100 balls.
Pietersen survived a review on 62 when Sreesanth appealed for caught behind but replays showed the ball had clipped only pad. However, his stay ended soon after.
Morgan clipped his first ball, from Praveen, to leg for four and glanced another boundary from his third. He was given a life on 17 when Sreesanth put down down a simple opportunity at backward point off Ishant.
Cook tucked Ishant for four to herald another fifty partnership before Morgan was shelled again, on 43, by Dravid at slip off Suresh Raina’s spin.