England vs. India: cricket world praises Alastair Cook after farewell Test century
Former England skipper makes history and hits 147 at The Oval
Alastair Cook scored an unforgettable century in his final Test innings for England on what was an “I was there” moment for the spectators lucky enough to be at The Oval on the fourth day of the fifth Test against India.
Not only were they treated to Cook’s exploits but James Anderson also got in on the history act, taking two wickets in the evening to equal Glenn McGrath’s pace bowling record of 563 Test victims.
With India starting the fifth and final day on 58-3 – still a massive 406 short of their target – Anderson will have every opportunity to move ahead of the great Australian today. Play starts at 11am.
But yesterday was first and foremost about Cook whose majestic 147 was his 33rd Test century. Earlier in the innings he surpassed Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara tally of 12,400 runs to become the fifth-highest run-scorer in Test cricket.
No other left-hander, Englishman or Test opener has scored more runs than the 12,472 he has accumulated in 161 Test matches.
Only Sachin Tendulkar (15,921), Ricky Ponting (13,378), Jacques Kallis (13,289) and Rahul Dravid (13,288) have made more Test runs.
But none of them achieved Cook’s feat of becoming only the fifth batsman to score centuries in his first and final Tests.
Cook reached his century shortly before lunch in bizarre circumstances, a wild shy at the stumps from Jasprit Bumrah going for four overthrows as Cook dashed for a single.
No one cared. Cook had become the first Englishman since Nasser Hussain in 2004 to score a century in his final Test innings.
England skipper Joe Root soon followed the former England captain to three figures but his dismissal for 125 precipitated another English collapse with Cook going next ball and Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler soon following them back to the pavilion.
Ben Stokes scored a quickfire 37 in 36 balls to enable England to declare on 423-8, a lead of 463.
India, who had warmly applauded every one of Cook’s landmarks, were demoralised after so long in the field. They were soon in deep trouble as Anderson set out to steal some of his great friend’s glory.
Shikhar Dhawan and then Cheteshwar Pujara were dismissed in the space of three balls as Anderson equalled McGrath’s pace-bowling record.
India’s miserable day was completed when captain Virat Kohli went for a golden duck at the hands of Stuart Broad, leaving the tourists on 2-3.
KL Rahul steadied the ship as the shadows lengthened on the Oval. His unbeaten 46 pulled India to 58-3 at the close of play.
Lost for words
Cook was again given a standing ovation as he left the field at stumps. He later described the day as “unbelievable”.
Asked to elaborate on his emotions, Cook told The Guardian: “I can’t really… I want to go back and watch it now to see how special it is.”
Nonetheless he did admit that it had been a challenge to stay focused amid all the hullabaloo surrounding his final appearance in Test cricket.
“It was a strange week but I was just determined not to get out early because it would have been an anti-climax, but to go out like that is the perfect way to end,” he said.
“My greatest skill is to be able to take a lot of emotion out of my batting and to be able to take one ball at a time, and if there has ever been a test of that, it has been this week. To perform like that probably just shows my greatest strength.”
What they said about Alastair Cook
Michael Vaughan: “That was a very, very special moment... All of us who are privileged to be here today will remember that forever... #Cook #100 ... If any person deserves that send-off it’s Alastair ... Fairytales do happen.”
Geoffrey Boycott: “When the bowlers are racing in with a new ball, you need a strong heart and mind. You’re not creaming it about the park with an old ball. He’s faced up to the best when they are at their freshest and when he is at his most vulnerable.”
Mick Jagger: “Congratulations Alastair Cook on your farewell 100 and for giving us all such pleasure over the years.”
Former Australia pace bowler Brett Lee: “Thanks for the memories Cookie. A class act! It certainly was a pleasure to play against you.”
England head selector Ed Smith on a future role for Cook: “It would be terrific for England to tap into him as a resource… he’s a calm, balanced and fair person so I think we’ve got to try to tap into that knowledge and wisdom without a doubt.”