England vs. India: Alastair Cook nears half-century in his final Test
Opener hits unbeaten 46 and fans at The Oval will be willing him to score a ton
Cook still has an appetite for runs
Alastair Cook finished the third day of England’s fifth Test against India unbeaten on 46. The Oval crowd will be willing him to make history by scoring a century today.
The last England batsman to sign off his Test career with a hundred was Nasser Hussain against New Zealand in 2004. Before him it was Colin Milburn in 1969.
It’s a rare accomplishment, therefore, but it would fitting for Cook if he became only the third Englishman in 50 years to achieve the feat.
Cook, who is playing his 161st and final Test, is England’s leading run-scorer in Test cricket and if he scores 30 more today he will pass the 12,400 runs compiled by Kumar Sangakkara and move into fifth spot on the all-time list.
That will be of secondary importance to Cook, a team man through and through, who yesterday helped steer his side through a tough afternoon when Keaton Jennings and Moeen Ali fell cheaply. That brought Joe Root to the wicket and together with Cook the pair took England from 62-2 to 114-2 at the close.
India tail wags
That gives the home side a lead of 154, a strong position to be in against an Indian team with a reputation for failing fourth innings run chases.
That they are still in the game was due to impressive knocks from debutant Hanuma Vihari (56) and a rip-roaring 86 not out from Ravindra Jadeja.
That got the tourists up to a respectable 292 all out. When Jennings once more gave away his wicket (and quite possibly his place on the plane to Sri Lanka this autumn) and Ali went for 20, India were on the up.
Cook and Root brought them back down to earth and all eyes will be on the departing legend today to see if he can score a 33rd Test century.
“It’d be fantastic, wouldn’t it?” said England’s assistant coach, Paul Farbrace, when asked about the possibility of Cook bowing out with a ton.
“I think he’s just enjoying milking all the applause he’s getting. I think it’s just driving him on to bat as long as he possibly can.”
Cook made a century on Test debut 12 years ago against India and in 291 innings since he has amassed 12,371 runs, but Farbrace said it’s not just what he does with his bat that England will struggle to replace.
“He just seems to cope with everything that’s in front of him,” he explained. “As much as we’re going to miss his runs and his catches, I think the calming influence he has among the team, the staff, everybody… is something we’ll all miss when he’s not in the dressing room.”
One final glimpse
In the meantime there’s one last chance to watch the great man in action. As former England captain Michael Vaughan tweeted last night: “With Alastair Cook 46 not out I recommend every Cricket Fan to be at the Oval tomorrow please.”
Today’s play starts at 11am.