Cook leaves India mountain to climb
Alastair Cook recorded England’s sixth-highest Test score and best at Edgbaston, amassing 294 of a gargantuan 710 for seven declared – a first-innings lead of 486.
The left-hander batted for 767 minutes, faced 545 balls and struck 33 fours in eclipsing his 235 not out in November’s Ashes Test at Brisbane and Peter May’s unbeaten 285 here in 1957.
Cook was involved in three hundred partnerships, taking England’s total in this series to eight compared to India’s one – demonstrating the gulf between the teams in English conditions.
He shared a 222-run alliance with Eoin Morgan, who struck his second Test hundred in equally composed fashion to Cook’s 19th.
Morgan’s departure for 104 sparked a minor collapse of three wickets for 17 runs in 22 balls as Ravi Bopara and Matt Prior went cheaply.
However, Cook found another ally in Tim Bresnan, who helped him add 97 before Ishant Sharma ended the opener’s epic innings, which began on Wednesday evening.
After Cook enjoyed his best, Virender Sehwag endured his worst. On his return to the side following shoulder surgery, Sehwag bagged a king pair when he edged James Anderson’s second delivery to Andrew Strauss at first slip.
In-form Rahul Dravid picked up a trio of fours before the tourists closed day three on 35 for one, 451 in arrears, requiring a minor miracle to avoid defeat in the npower series and conceding their number-one Test status to England.
Prior to lunch Cook registered his second Test double ton, having resumed on 182 in a total of 456 for three.
Morgan, 44 overnight, soon went to his half-century with a scampered single off Praveen Kumar before a short rain delay.
When the action resumed Cook and Morgan rotated the strike sensibly against disciplined bowling, including from the again impressive Praveen.
Eleven overs went by without a boundary, principally due to Mahendra Singh Dhoni employing sweepers. During that time the hundred stand and Cook’s double ton arrived, the latter via a clipped two to deep square-leg off Sreesanth.
Morgan eventually found the rope by driving Sreesanth between midwicket and mid-on. However, another shower followed, heralding lunch 10 minutes early.
Morgan cover-drove Sreesanth for a rare boundary as Dhoni’s spread field again limited England’s progress.
Cook was three short of a career-best score when the players were taken off for bad light. A power cut meant the new state-of-the-art floodlights, which were used earlier in the session, could not be turned on. However, the action resumed following a minor impasse and the lights soon shone.
So did Cook, who broke new ground with three off Amit Mishra. Immediately after, Morgan survived on 95 when his pull off the leg-spinner hit Gautam Gambhir at short-leg but the fielder could not catch the rebound.
The 200-stand came at the end of the over, shortly before Morgan’s ton thanks to a swept single through midwicket off Mishra.
Morgan took Mishra and Suresh Raina for four, but perished in the latter’s next over when he picked out Sehwag at cover.
Mishra then struck twice, trapping Bopara – in his first Test innings for two years – in front and enticing Prior to top-edge a slog-sweep to Sachin Tendulkar, running in from deep backward square-leg.
Cook kept ticking over alongside Bresnan, who hit a pair of fours off the spinners in the verge of tea.
India took the third new ball immediately after the interval, but Cook and Bresnan responded with a flurry of fours, Ishant and Sreesanth both going for two boundaries in an over.
After a second short light delay, Bresnan went to 50 - his second in succession in Tests - by driving Ishant over midwicket for six.
Cook’s vigil was over when he chased a wide delivery only to locate Raina at deep point. Strauss immediately declared, leaving Bresnan on 53.
There were some sorry bowing returns with Sreesanth, Ishant and Mishra all conceding three figures. Only Praveen and Raina, with 2-98 and 1-83 respectively, were reasonable.