Cook enters rarified zone

Left-hander becomes youngest to score 7000 runs

On August 22, 1939, Wally Hammond made 139 against the West Indies at the Kensington Oval for his 22nd Test hundred for England. No English batsman was able to overtake that record for a little over 73 years.

But on a bright Thursday evening, Alistair Cook’s paddle sweep off R Ashwin took him to his 23rd Test hundred at the Eden Gardens, to set the record for most hundreds by an English batsman. In the process he also went past Colin Cowdrey and Geoff Boycott, who also had made 22 Test hundreds.

The closest to Cook now is his team-mate Kevin Pietersen, who also has 22 hundreds in the traditional format. Cook remained unbeaten on 136 at close on second day, and on the day the England skipper, who is now 27 years and 347 days, also became the youngest batsman to amass 7,000 Test runs, surpassing Sachin Tendulkar’s record.
The hundred on the day was Cook’s fifth successive century in Tests as captain.

These are marvelous piece of statistics for a 27-year old cricketer. But his value goes beyond those numbers. Having bundled out for a sub-200 total in the first innings of Ahmedabad Test, England needed someone to instill belief in them, a strong reminder that they could master spinners and survive in the sub-continental conditions.

There was no one more suited for that job in this English line-up than Cook – indefatigable and calm-headed. He produced a 176 in the second innings. Though that knock wasn’t enough to save England from a defeat, it was more than enough to set a lead for his colleagues.

Pietersen, who looked so edgy in Motera, transformed into that familiar, arrogant batsman in Mumbai and his genius needed the calming effect of Cook to blossom after a turbulence-filled return to the England fold.

Nick Compton was another batsman came to India with the tag of being a rabbit against spinners, and he hadn’t done anything noteworthy to dispel that label struggling in the tour games against second-set Indian spinners. But from the second innings at Motera, the Somerset right-hander was involved in stands with Cook worth 123, 66, 58 (unbeaten) and 165, denying Indians early breakthrough and driving in confidence in batsmen down the order.

Compton acknowledged Cook’s role. “Unflappable is probably a good way to describe Cook. He's tough. I've really enjoyed the time I spent out there with him.

"He's quite an easy guy to get used to. He keeps things very simple. It's just a good way to get to know someone by getting there in the middle. You can't be closer to someone really in the heat of the battle. For me, it's easy to chill out there at the other end. It becomes a big difference when you have a player of Cook's calibre at the other end,” Compton said.

But Compton soon pointed to a fearsome possibility, if you are in the opposition. "It says a lot about his hunger and determination. A lot of batsmen only really find their feet at 28, 29, and the fact that he's found his feet at a very young age and done it for so long is amazing.

“The stats speak for themselves - to be ahead of Tendulkar at this stage is an amazing achievement. Perhaps, he’s going to get more.”

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