Alastair Cook misses out on double century but England grind India down
15:22 07 December 2012
PA Archive/Press Association Images
Alastair Cook fell short of his third double-century as England nonetheless ground their way to a match-controlling lead over India on day three of the third Test at Eden Gardens.
Cook (190) laid the painstaking foundation in a stand of 173 with Jonathan Trott (87) for England to try to push for victory and establish a 2-1 series lead over the final two days.
But after he was run out in bizarre circumstances, Kevin Pietersen fell for 54 before he could provide the necessary acceleration to put India under optimum pressure.
It therefore fell to others to chip England towards a stumps total of 509 for six in reply to 316 all out on a pitch just beginning to show signs of wear, with variable bounce and sharper turn offering second-innings promise to bowlers of all persuasions.
Cook in particular ensured that England almost eradicated the threat of Ravichandran Ashwin, a let-down in this series so far, and were not significantly discomfited by the rest of the India attack either.
The England captain’s eight-hour epic was finally ended not by a bowler but a fielder, when Virat Kohli arrowed in a direct-hit throw from midwicket to run him out backing up.
The complication was that Cook appeared in position to ground his bat in time, only to raise it and allow the ball through.
His own reaction told the tale, however, that he was not forced into protective evasive action but merely for once guilty of a rare human error - a fact confirmed by third-umpire vindication.
Cook’s 377-ball stay, encapsulating of course his record-breaking 23rd English Test century, had still outlasted an equally unhurried Trott.
The second-wicket pair continued remorselessly this morning, although Cook needed one significant piece of good fortune on 156 when Ishant Sharma put down a straightforward return catch.
India managed to apply the brakes either side of lunch but could not manage a breakthrough as Trott moved past his 131-ball half-century, with a leg-glance off Zaheer Khan for his seventh four - a shot which also brought up the hundred stand.
The total progressed in staccato, but England still felt they had time on their side to play a waiting game.
Spin replaced pace, to no avail until - in mid-afternoon - Trott was undone by one that turned from Pragyan Ojha and edged behind.
Pietersen’s arrival brought a familiar change in the bowling, Mahendra Singh Dhoni summoning Yuvraj Singh to try his luck against his favourite sparring partner.
Save for an early mistimed cut into the ground and just past off-stump, however, Pietersen was unfazed.
Instead, it was Cook who finally showed some frailty - surprised perhaps by an Indian fielder excelling himself in a match when that has so rarely happened so far.
He hung his head back in disappointment on instant realisation, and it would have been asking a lot for Dhoni to recall his team’s tormentor merely because he was eventually run out - astoundingly, for the first time in his 312 first-class innings to date - in freak fashion.
Thanks largely to Cook’s 23 fours and two sixes, England were in any case already handily in credit with power to add.
After a teatime inspection by their management of the surface cracks which have been evident on this pitch from the outset, it seemed the orders were to press on.
Pietersen duly hit Ojha for three off-side fours off the first three balls of the evening session.
But Plan A was compromised when Ian Bell got an under-edge behind off Sharma; then Pietersen was lbw sweeping, immediately after reaching his 83-ball 50, to give Ashwin his only wicket at a cost of 183 runs.
Samit Patel hinted at the extra impetus required until Ojha found extra turn to have him very well-caught by Virender Sehwag, moving quickly to his right at slip to knock up an edged cut and collect the rebound.
In Matt Prior and Graeme Swann, though, England still had the right men for the occasion to bolster the lead to 193 by the close.