Captain Cook conquers Indian bowlers again as England close 100 behind with nine wickets in hand
PUBLISHED: 12:05 06 December 2012 | UPDATED: 12:35 06 December 2012
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Alastair Cook became England’s most prolific Test centurion when he completed his 23rd - and third in successive matches - at Eden Gardens today.
Cook (136 not out) is also the youngest batsman in history to 7,000 runs, a milestone he passed with his 88th this afternoon as he and Nick Compton took control in an opening stand of 165 on day two of the third Test against India.
By the time Cook reached his hundred, a fifth in consecutive Tests as captain dating back to his time as Andrew Strauss’ deputy in Bangladesh almost three years ago, the tourists were well on their way to a stumps total of 216 for one, in reply to 316 all out.
His latest century inches him one ahead of team-mate Kevin Pietersen - as well as three other greats in Geoff Boycott, Wally Hammond and Colin Cowdrey.
Cook is still only joint-20th in an all-time list headed by India’s own Sachin Tendulkar on 51, but at the age of 27 should have many years ahead of him to move up the table.
England’s openers needed a little fortune to go with their skill, against pace and spin, as they turned their fourth 50 stand in succession into a first century together.
Cook was dropped on 17 when he edged Zaheer Khan low to slip, where Cheteshwar Pujara could not hold the catch.
Otherwise, though, the most likely mode of dismissal appeared to be a run-out as Cook and his apprentice partner took chances with scampered singles and more than once were in danger of mid-wicket collisions as they kept holding the same line.
There were to be no such mishaps, though, and Cook duly reached his 179-ball century with a leg-glance off Ravichandran Ashwin - having previously also hit the off-spinner for one memorable straight six to go with his 14 fours.
Compton (57) had fewer obvious scoring options but also profited from using his feet, hitting Pragyan Ojha for a six of his own over long-on, on his way to a maiden Test half-century in 123 balls.
Grandson of Denis, and two years Cook’s senior, Compton therefore claimed a notable milestone of his own - albeit on a reduced scale to his captain’s - before Ojha got his revenge.
Cook was safely past his hundred when Compton missed an attempted sweep at the slow left-armer and was, eventually, given out lbw by umpire Rod Tucker just as the batsmen completed what they thought by then was a leg-bye.
Jonathan Trott had made two ducks in his last three Test innings, but did enough here to help Cook consolidate an advantage which gives England clear prospects of pushing for a second successive win over their hosts.
Monty Panesar had earlier finished with four for 90, to add to his 11 wickets in the series-levelling victory in Mumbai, as England picked up the last three Indian wickets for 43 runs this morning - despite some late belligerence from Mahendra Singh Dhoni (52).
The home captain made his intent clear immediately, up the wicket to the second ball of the day to crunch James Anderson past mid-off.
His overnight partner Zaheer was dropped by Graeme Swann off Anderson, but was soon gone anyway - lbw to a Panesar arm ball.
Panesar also made short work of Ishant Sharma, but the last-wicket pair frustrated England for more than half an hour.
Ojha made no runs but kept out 19 balls, allowing Dhoni to club Panesar for successive sixes over long-off and long-on as England brought the field up for the final two deliveries of one over.
The cat-and-mouse continued, with four consecutive maidens at one point, until Cook had to rest Anderson for Steven Finn.
It was a change which brought Dhoni’s 50, with his fifth four from 113 balls crashed past cover, but then the end too when he gloved the next ball and Swann did well to make ground from slip to complete a diving catch.
England had done well to restrict Dhoni’s attempt to alter the momentum of a match which was to swing still further the tourists’ way thanks to the next historic tour de force from Cook’s remorseless repertoire.