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England pile on the agony

From G Unnikrishnan, Kolkata, Dec 7, 2012, DHNS: 2:15 IST

Cook, KP, Trott come to the party as visitors take commanding 193-run lead

 England's Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen take a run during Day 3 of the 3rd Cricket Test Match against India at Eden Garden in Kolkata on Friday. PTI Photo
Sitting in the dressing room Alistair Cook grinned broadly as the giant screen flashed the bizarre run out that robbed him of a richly deserved double hundred by just 10 runs. His state of contentment stemmed from England’s dominant position after the third day despite the Indian bowlers producing an improved effort.

Led by Pragyan Ojha, the hosts managed to pluck five England wickets on Friday, but the visitors were able to add 293 runs to their overnight 216 for one to reach 509 for six for a significant lead of 193 runs. It was by far England’s best batting performance of the year, crossing the 500-run mark for the first time in 2012, and once again Cook had a strong role in it while supporting roles were played to a nicety by Jonathan Trott (87) and Kevin Pietersen (54). Needless to say, India are in a spot and need plenty of work from here to save this game.

Cook had made history on Thursday by scoring his 23rd Test hundred, the most by an English batsman, but the Essex man wasn’t satisfied. He continued the search for big runs in the company of Trott, who finally seemed to have regained his run-making ways after a horror start to the tour. Contrary to the way it finished, the day started on an attritional note. Pragyan Ojha and R Ashwin subjected Cook, 136 overnight, and Trott, 21 overnight, to an intense test of skill and temperament – drawing them forward, forcing them to reach out for the ball. Ojha was a markedly different bowler from the previous day, as the left-arm spinner managed to get more bite from the surface.

Ashwin too started the day well, not offering width to cut as he had done so often against Cook the earlier day. There was much more control and occasional turn and bounce – keeping the English duo under check.

Cook wasn’t precisely at his fluent best either, occasionally looking in trouble against Ojha and Ishant Sharma, with many of the pacer’s deliveries bouncing unevenly. Trott too had his issues against the spinners, Ojha in particular, and was beaten on a couple occasions for the turn. But you can’t find two more bloody-minded batsmen than Cook and Trott, and gradually they strengthened their hold over the Indian bowlers, swelling their partnership to 173 and batting deep into the afternoon.

It was the kind of batting that fills the opposition with despair, a terrible hopelessness about their task at hand. India needed something extraordinary to separate Cook and Trott, reputed for their penchant to stitch together massive stands in each other’s company like the unbeaten 329 they made against Australia at Brisbane in 2010.

On the day, they were threatening to build something similarly colossal but Ojha managed to find a thick edge that nestled in MS Dhoni’s gloves to end Trott’s tenure.

Trott fell 13 runs short of a hundred, but England had move ahead of India by 22 runs.
Cook followed him soon. Despite his relative uneasiness in the middle, the Essex batsman was inching towards a double hundred. But spending nearly nine hours at the crease might have frazzled his mind a bit. Backing up a tad too far for a Kevin Pietersen shot, Cook lifted his bat as he tried to evade a throw from Virat Kohli that clattered onto the stumps. India had a chance to dismiss the English captain earlier in the day but Ishant Sharma dropped a sitter off his own bowling when the batsman was on 156.
The dismissal of Cook and Trott didn’t bring much respite to the Indian bowlers. Pietersen (54), Samit Patel (33) and Matt Prior (40 n.o) played breezy knocks to rub salt into the wounds that had already been cut wide open.

The last hour or so before the stumps was quite a depressing one from the Indian perspective.

They home side bowlers failed to check Prior and Swann as the seventh-wicket pair added 56 to swell the last session tally to 128 runs from 28 overs – well over four runs per over. India have had a wonderful record at the Eden post 2000, and that run is in grave danger unless they don’t find a couple of followers for the Cook-Trott method on the morrow.

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