BIRMINGHAM: Alastair Cook’s 182 not out led England into a commanding position against India on the second day of the third Test at Edgbaston here on Wednesday. At stumps, England were 456 for three for in reply to India’s mediocre 224 — a lead of 232 runs.
Cook’s fellow left-hander Eoin Morgan was unbeaten on 44 in a fourth-wicket stand so far worth 82. England were in complete control as they pursued a win that would give them both an unbeatable 3-0 lead in the four-Test series and see them replace India at the top of the ICC’s Test Championship table.
Cook’s ton was his 19th in Tests and only five players — Walter Hammond, Colin Cowdrey, Geoffrey Boycott (22 each), Ken Barrington and Cook’s mentor Graham Gooch (both 20) — have now made more for England than the 26-year-old Essex opener, currently playing in his 71st match at this level.Cook’s latest century, his first of a series where he’d managed just 20 runs in four previous innings, also saw him equal the records of both England great Len Hutton and current captain Andrew Strauss. Together with fellow left-handed opener Strauss, Cook shared a first-wicket stand of 186 before the skipper fell for 87 to leg-spinner Amit Mishra.
He then put on 122 with Kevin Pietersen, who made a dashing 63, including a superb straight driven six off Mishra. England started the day’s final session on 319 for two, a lead of 95 runs, with Cook 129 not out and Pietersen unbeaten on 36. Pietersen completed his fifty in an Ishant Sharma over where he scored 14 runs, including three boundaries with the best a clip from outside off-stump through midwicket.
Gooch has always encouraged Cook, who led England’s batting statistics in Australia with 766 runs at an average of 127.66 including three centuries during the decent 3-1 Ashes series win, to score “daddy” hundreds. And his protege, whose only Test double century to do date was the 235 not out he made against Australia in Brisbane in November, did that by pulling fast bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth to wide long to go to 150 with his 23rd four.
It was the fifth time in Tests that Cook had reached that landmark and the fourth since March last year. But Praveen Kumar, a shining light for a lacklustre India, broke the third-wicket stand when he had Pietersen lbw. The medium-pacer had previously bowled Ian Bell, on his Warwickshire home ground and fresh from a hundred in England’s 319-run second Test win, for 34 with a beauty that uprooted off-stump. Kumar finished the day with economical figures of two for 75 in 32 overs. But the remainder of an India attack, where three bowlers conceded at least 100 runs each, and missing injured spearhead Zaheer Khan couldn’t contain England as they made the most of batting conditions far better than when Strauss won the toss and fielded.
India were also hampered by shoddy catching, summed up when Rahul Dravid dropped a routine slip chance when Bell had made 30. Morgan was given two lives, first when Sreesanth put down an even easier effort at backward point when the Dubliner had made 17 and then when Dravid — who has more catches to his name than anyone else in Test cricket — inexplicably spilled another sitter at slip in the last over of the day.One rare sadness for England, who resumed Thursday on 84 without loss, was that Strauss fell in sight of a hundred when he deflected an intended sweep off Mishra onto his own stumps.
INDIA 1ST INNINGS: 224
ENGLAND 1ST INNINGS:
A Strauss b Mishra 87
A Cook not out 182
I Bell b Kumar 34
K Pietersen lbw b Kumar 63
E Morgan not out 44
To bat: R Bopara, M Prior, T Bresnan, S Broad, G Swann, J Anderson
EXTRAS: (lb26, b7, nb12, w1) 46
TOTAL: (3 wkts, 115 overs) 456
FOW: 1-186, 2-252, 3-374
Praveen Kumar 32-12-75-2
Ishant Sharma 25-6-112-0
INDIA: Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Venkatsai Laxman, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wkt), Amit Mishra, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth
Umpires: Simon Taufel (AUS) and Steve Davis (AUS)
TV umpire: Rod Tucker (AUS)
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (SRI) – Nation