Cook continues to batter India
Cricket Third Test:Skipper scores third consecutive century as visitors take control of proceedings at Eden
Game-changing moment often comes without knocking. In India’s case it came in the fifth ball of the 14th over in the shape of a thick edge by Alastair Cook off Zaheer Khan. At first slip, Cheteshwer Pujara let the moment pass, dropping a sharp chance and India weren’t in picture for the rest of the day.
Cook, then on 17, went on to add a further 119 runs to remain unbeaten on 136, his 23rd Test hundred, and England ended the second day of the third Test at 216 for one to be firmly in command. The visitors now trail by 100 runs after putting a rather quick end to India’s first innings on Thursday morning for 316, made possible only by skipper MS Dhoni’s fifty.
As it has been throughout this series, England built their resistance – a formidable one at that – around Cook. The Essex left-hander started his India-blunting act in the company of Compton, and they asserted England’s upper hand over the hosts gradually, like mist descending over a valley. It was an irresistible process.
Indians began their attempt to separate Cook and Nick Compton in the post-lunch session through two bowlers – Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma -- who were their best bets to make an impact on a pitch that gave some assistance to the pace bowlers.
In fact, Zaheer and Ishant, who was playing his first Test since Adelaide Test in January, started the middle session on the right note, testing the patience of Cook and Compton with a tight line just outside the off-stump. Ishant was impressive in particular producing a second spell (6-3-9-0) of quality and intensity. But the Englishmen showed steel-edged patience to survive the testing phase.
Once they saw off that spell by Ishant and Zaheer, the two English openers were all over India. It wasn’t a spectacular assault, but was a morale-sapping grinding that Indians would found difficult to forget. Credit should also be given to Compton for supporting Cook in a big way in their 165-run alliance.
Since coming to India, Compton, who usually comes at number three for Somerset in English county cricket, was all at sea against spin before showing some positive intent in the second innings of the Mumbai Test, making a quick unbeaten 30. Perhaps, carrying some positive energy from that knock, Compton displayed a lot of assuredness at the Eden Gardens on the day en route his maiden Test fifty.
He was decisive in his footwork against spinners, evidenced by the courage he showed while stepping out and hammering Pragyan Ojha for a six over long on. If there was a statement of intent, that was it. But the entire innings of Cook was laced with intent.
Indian bowlers, especially the spinners who stayed off the radar for the entire day, generously helped him. Once produced that fine spell during the initial part of the post-lunch session, steam went out of Ishant and Zaheer, often trundling in to bowl their quota of overs. Ashwin and Ojha were equally or more disappointing.
On a pitch where Monty Panesar managed to purchase a good amount of bite, his Indian counterparts resembled two amateurs. They never unsettled the batsmen like Panesar did on the first day. Ojha, who has been the lynchpin of Indian attack in Ahmedabad and Mumbai, looked completely out of sorts, often erring on the line and struggling to manacle the batsmen.
Ashwin offered too many short balls on and around the off-stump which were cut away easily by Cook, and 56 of his runs on the off-side came in the arc between third man and cover region.
In fact, the sorry state was revealed from the fact that there was only one instance of Indian spinners beating the batsmen for turn. It was in the 70th over when Ojha spun one past Jonathan Trott’s bat, bowling from around the stumps. Even the spectators approved the rarity of that occurrence with a loud cheer. Cook and Trott have already added 51 for the unbroken second wicket stance, and Indians need to dust themselves off before England reach stratosphere.
INDIA (I Innings, O/n: 273/7):
Gambhir c Trott b Panesar 60
(169m, 124b, 12x4)
Sehwag (run out) 23
(45m, 26b, 3x4)
Pujara b Panesar 16
(58m, 48b, 2x4)
Tendulkar c Prior b Anderson 76
(202m, 155b, 13x4)
Kohli c Swann b Anderson 6
(31m, 24b, 1x4)
Yuvraj c Cook b Swann 32
(77m, 54b, 4x4, 1x6)
Dhoni c Swann b Finn 52
(131m, 114b, 5x4, 2x6)
Ashwin b Anderson 21
(59m, 43b, 2x4)
Zaheer lbw Panesar 6
(23m, 21b, 1x4)
Ishant b Panesar 0
Ojha (not out) 0
Extras (B-5, LB-13, W-5, NB-1) 24
Total (all out, 105 overs) 316
Fall of wickets: 1-47 (Sehwag), 2-88 (Pujara), 3-117 (Gambhir), 4-136 (Kohli), 5-215 (Yuvraj), 6-230 (Tendulkar), 7-268 (Ashwin), 8-292 (Zaheer), 9-296 (Ishant).
Bowling: Anderson 28-7-89-3 (w-5), Finn 21-2-73-1 (nb-1), Panesar 40-13-90-4, Swann 16-3-46-1.
ENGLAND (I Innings):
Cook (batting) 136
(255m, 236b, 19x4, 1x6)
Compton lbw Ojha 57
(214m, 137b, 6x4, 1x6)
Trott (batting) 21
(72m, 67b, 3x4)
Extras (NB-2) 2
Total (for 1 wkt, 73 overs) 216
Fall of wickets: 1-165 (Compton).
Bowling: Zaheer Khan 16-4-48-0, Ishant Sharma 15-6-35-0 (nb-2), R Ashwin 23-4-68-0, Pragyan Ojha 19-4-65-1.