Classy Cook grills Indians

Opener nears double century as England take 232-run lead on second day

Classy Cook grills Indians

Down 0-2 in the four-match series, their slim hopes of a comeback in the third Test too appear to have suffered a slow death as the hosts tightened their grip with another lesson in batting that the struggling Indian batsmen would do well to emulate.

At close on the second day here at Edgbaston, England, overnight 84 for no loss, had moved to 456 for three to establish a massive 232-run lead over visitors’ inadequate 224 all out on the opening day.

Alastair Cook (182 batting, 339b, 26x4) overcame a brief slump in form to return to his century-making ways with an epic knock that brought the rival attack to its knees. A fortuitous Eoin Morgan, dropped twice, was batting on 44 in an unseparated 122-run stand for the fourth wicket.

Of the Indian bowlers, only Praveen Kumar looked threatening; he could have had better returns than 2/75 with some luck and more discipline from the other end on a day when the play began after a 30-minute delay due to rains.

That India were lucky to get one of the three wickets to fall on the day was a screaming evidence of England’s total domination. Andrew Strauss was bowled off a no-ball from Amit Mishra but umpire Simon Taufel missed the bowler overstepping the line. India, who had endured a horrible day thus far, weren’t complaining however. They finally had something to cheer in almost one and a half days.

English openers’ approach was a classic example of Test batsmanship: give an hour to bowlers and the rest will belong to you. This is precisely what skipper Strauss (87, 176b, 13x4) and Cook (129 batting, 244b, 20x4) managed to put England in an enviable situation with a 186-run partnership. Strauss and Cook played out a series of dot balls in the first hour or so as the Indian pacemen, especially Praveen, swung the ball consistently.

He conceded just two runs in his first spell of seven overs, including five maidens. His first wicket -- Ian Bell -- was no more than what he deserved on a day when the rub of the green didn’t go his way. The right-arm paceman got the ball to seam away from Bell and beat his defence, exactly the way Tim Bresnan had done in Rahul Dravid.

To the batsmen’s credit, they showed plenty of patience when hitting out of the trouble would have been a tempting proposition. It wasn’t until the 15th over of the day that England scored their first boundary, Strauss welcoming Ishant Sharma with a slashed four. With that stroke, England shifted gears and runs came thick and fast after that.

With the series-win beckoning, the left-handed opening duo, which had been short on runs this series, couldn’t have chosen a better time to bat India out of the game. Once they got their eye in, they were not hesitant to play the strokes against an increasingly tired-looking Indian attack, which wasn’t helped at all by a lethargic fielding. Strauss played with more freedom while Cook understandably was circumspect coming on the back of a 12, 1, 2, 5 sequence in the series.

Strauss departed after setting a strong platform for a big total while Bell, dropped on 30, departed soon after a sparkling 34 but Cook remained firm. The 26-year-old brought up his 19th Test ton with a single off Ishant and continued to blossom in the company of an aggressive Kevin Pietersen, their association yielding 122 runs in just 138 balls. After the initial caution when he consumed 130 balls for his first 50 runs, Cook began to express himself. He didn’t mind pulling and wasn’t averse to driving on the front foot, leaving Indians an exacerbated lot.


SCORE BOARD
INDIA (I Innings): 224 all out
ENGLAND (I Innings, O/n: 84/0):
Strauss b Mishra    87
(231m, 176b, 13x4)
Cook (batting)    182
(489m, 339b, 26x4)
Bell b Praveen    34
(67m, 43b, 6x4)
Pietersen lbw Praveen    63
(105m, 78b, 9x4, 1x6)
Morgan (batting)    44
(86m, 66b, 6x4)
Extras (B-7, LB-26, W-1, NB-12)    46
Total (for 3 wkts, 115 overs)    456
Fall of wickets: 1-186 (Strauss), 2-252 (Bell), 3-374 (Pietersen).
Bowling: Praveen Kumar 30-12-75-2, S Sreesanth 22-4-103-0 (nb-4), Ishant Sharma 25-6-112-0 (w-1), Amit Mishra 26-2-100-1 (nb-8), Suresh Raina 9-0-30-0, Sachin Tendulkar 1-0-3-0.

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