Cook's tinkering pays dividends
Alastair Cook tweaked his technique since the last npower Test, resulting in an unbeaten century that has put England in a near impregnable position at Edgbaston.
Cook, who enjoyed a prolific winter and fine series against Sri Lanka this summer, scored a total of only 20 runs in his first four innings versus India.
However, he returned to form with a stunning unbeaten 182 – his highest Test score in England – to set up a mammoth total of 456 for three, a first-innings lead of 232.
The left-hander, who was trapped in front at Lord’s and Trent Bridge, corrected an imbalance that made him susceptible to being lbw.
“I did a little bit of work last week trying to get into better positions,” he revealed. “I might have been falling over slightly in the last couple of games.”
Cook, who has faced 339 balls and picked up 26 fours in this innings, was naturally pleased to end his barren patch, albeit a short one.
“It’s always nice to score runs, especially pleasing when you haven’t scored in the last two Test matches,” he added.
“It’s been frustrating not getting through that new ball but it was important once I did get through that to make it count like I did today because that kind of makes you forget the low scores.”
India vice-captain and fellow opener Gautam Gambhir echoed Cook’s sentiments about making the most of a start.
“There will be days when you will be out cheaply but, when you are in, you make it count. That’s what Cook did,” he said.
“He made the most of it. That’s where we have been lacking. We are not able to convert. Hopefully we will do so in coming days, coming weeks.”
Cook shared an opening stand of 186 with Andrew Strauss, who himself put a run of modest scores behind him with 87.
Their fourth-highest partnership began yesterday and soon extended into three figures this morning after England resumed on 84.
“We said when we got past 100 it was about time we did something,” Cook said.
“It was nice to get a good start and it was a shame he fell 13 runs short of a well-deserved hundred, but great to see him score runs.
“I think the whole way we batted today was everyone made it count and luckily I was the one that went on.”
Besides his fellow batsmen, Cook reserved praise for India seamer Praveen Kumar, who shone en route to figures of 2-75 from 32 overs.
Praveen, who began the day with four consecutive maidens in a spell of seven overs for two runs, bowled Ian Bell for 34 with a beauty and had Kevin Pietersen leg before for 63.
“Kumar’s bowled exceptionally well, the amount of overs he’s bowled as well, he swung it both ways and held his length very well,” Cook added.
“Luckily I managed to survive him today, but he’s been their best bowler.”
Gambhir made no excuses for India’s poor fielding today, which included Rahul Dravid dropping two slip catches an Sreesanth spilling Eoin Morgan at backward point.
“There are no excuses, just a matter of concentration, all other teams also drop catches,” he added. “At critical moments we ended up dropping Morgan twice. These things happen in cricket. This is not the first or last time it would happen.”
Cook denied that the series, which England will secure with victory here, has been one-sided.
He cited the last Test when the hosts were reduced to 88 for six batting first and India were 267 for four in reply to 288.
“It’s definitely been a scrap,” he said. “If you look back at the last Test match, twice we’ve been in a position a long way behind the eight ball and we’ve managed to scrap our way out of the situation.
“A lot of credit must go to how the bowlers have bowled, they’ve put their top order under a lot of pressure. We’ve got to continue to do that.
“There’s no way this game is won or close to being won. We’ve got to go out tomorrow and score a lot of runs because I don’t think batting last will be easy on this wicket.”
Cook expects there to be more assistance for spinners as the game progresses, something that will encourage team-mate Graeme Swann.
“I think the wicket will dry out more and more. History says since they put the new drainage in here that it will do that, he added.
“We expect it to do a little bit so that’s why it’s important we try and build as big a lead as we can.”