Cricket: Alastair Cook produced a superb unbeaten 168 to keep England alive as he almost singlehandedly dragged the first Test against India into an unlikely fifth and final day.
At stumps today, the left-hander — playing his first Test as permanent captain — had batted throughout the four sessions of the tourists’ second innings and played a pivotal role in helping them overturn a mammoth initial deficit of 330 runs.
Cook’s 21st Test century, combined with an unbroken stand of 141 with Matt Prior (84no), took England to 340 for five at stumps and a lead of 10 heading into tomorrow's final day in Ahmedabad.
His resistance smacked of both defiance and resourcefulness, especially being that it was on a worn pitch that favoured India’s spinners.
And though his stand may yet not save England, it was a showing that England batting coach and Cook’s mentor Graham Gooch believes is as good an innings as he has ever seen from the new skipper.
“Some players blossom under the captaincy as a performer, and he has certainly blossomed under that responsibility here,” said Gooch, who as of yesterday stood one behind Cook in England’s list of all-time most prolific centurions.
“It was great commitment from our guys and great fighting spirit. There was belief in their own ability, and Alastair led from the front as captain.
“That will do him the world of good to put that score on the board, showing what he is capable of and what this team is capable of.”
Cook barely put a foot wrong throughout and never wavered in stamina-sapping heat and glare.
Prior, like his captain, employed impeccable shot selection — and when, inevitably, they were beaten by the spin of Pragyan Ojha and the wicketless Ravichandran Ashwin they did not fret about what was still to come and were therefore able to withstand it.
Gooch added: “I think that was as good an innings as I’ve seen him play, because he was under great pressure after a poor first-innings performance from the team.
“He can do it because he is one of the best players in the world. He crafted a century today. It wasn’t a flamboyant innings — he did the job that was necessary.”
India remain in a strong position to take an early lead in the series but Gooch was encouraged by the resolve his players had started to show after a tricky opening few days.
“India put 520 on the board and played very well. They are a very good side and exceptional at playing in these conditions,” he said.
“We’ve shown today that we can cope with those conditions as well.”
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