BIRMINGHAM, England, (Reuters) – Alastair Cook stroked his 19th test century as England’s ruthless batsmen amassed 456 for three on the second day of the third test against a weary-looking India yesterday.
The prolific opener was 182 not out at the close having started the day on 27. Eoin Morgan was also unbeaten on 44 while captain Andrew Strauss fell for 87 off a no-ball that was not spotted, Kevin Pietersen made 63 and Ian Bell 34.
England sailed past India’s first innings 224 to lead by 232 runs at Edgbaston. With three days remaining and seven wickets in hand, the hosts are well placed to take an unassailable 3-0 lead in the four-match series.
Cook moved ahead of David Gower, Michael Vaughan and Pietersen in the list of test centurions and is now level with Strauss and Len Hutton, with only five Englishmen in front of the trio.
“It’s always nice to score runs and especially pleasing when you haven’t scored in the last two tests,” Cook told reporters. “It’s been frustrating not getting through that new ball and it was important that when I did I made it count.
“I did a bit of work last week to get myself into better positions as I might have been falling over slightly but the conditions in the last couple of tests have been very tough.”
The left hander batted for more than eight hours and faced 339 deliveries to extend a purple patch that now contains seven centuries in his last 13 tests.
It has been a chanceless innings albeit with a few boundaries off Cook’s edge.
India’s bowling was ineffective, lacking the control to halt England’s free scoring plus penetration on a pitch that has become increasingly easy to bat on.
The fielding also disappointed with Rahul Dravid dropping Bell on 30 at first slip off Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, who later spilled an easy catch at point off Ishant Sharma’s bowling when Morgan was on 17.
Dravid also dropped Morgan on 43 off Suresh Raina, another simple chance.
The ease of England’s run spree was demonstrated by the normally cautious Cook, who reverse-swept Amit Mishra for three just after lunch.
Strauss’s fluent innings lasted 176 deliveries and he fell when he tried to sweep Mishra only to deflect the ball off his pad and on to the leg stump.
The England skipper was seeking his first test century at home in two years but Mishra had over-stepped the crease and Australian umpire Simon Taufel did not notice.
Strauss and Cook put on 186 for the first wicket, their fourth highest partnership.
Cook went to three figures with a single to mid-wicket, reaching the milestone from 213 balls. He later raised his 150 with a thumping pull shot off Sreesanth.
The only other successes for India were the wickets of Bell, bowled by Praveen Kumar with a delivery that swung away and knocked over his off stump, and Pietersen who looked in ominously good form during his 78-ball stay.
Pietersen stepped across his stumps to Kumar and was hit on the pads. Umpire Steve Davis raised his finger and the batsman stood his ground in disbelief for almost 10 seconds before appearing to glare at the official as he walked off.
More bad news for India came when the odd delivery from Mishra and Raina turned prodigiously in the evening session — a sight that would certainly encourage England off spinner Graeme Swann.
“There will be days when you will be out cheaply but when you are in you make it count, that’s what Cook did,” said India’s opening batsman Gautam Gambhir. “He made the most of it.
“That’s where we have been lacking, we haven’t been able to convert. We are under a lot of pressure.”
England will go to number one in the world rankings if they win here.
India first innings 224
(MS Dhoni 77; S. Broad 4-53, T. Bresnan 4-62)
England first innings (overnight 84-0)
A. Strauss b Mishra 87
A. Cook not out 182
I. Bell b Kumar 34
K. Pietersen lbw b Kumar 63
E. Morgan not out 44
Extras (lb-26, b-7, nb-12, w-1) 46
Total (three wickets, 115 overs) 456
Fall of wickets: 1-186 2-252 3-374
To bat: R. Bopara, M. Prior, T. Bresnan, S. Broad, G. Swann, J. Anderson.
Bowling (to date): Praveen Kumar 32-12-75-2, Sreesanth 22-4-103-0(4nb), Ishant Sharma 25-6-112-0 (1w), Mishra 26-2-100-1 (8nb), Raina 9-0-30-0, Tendulkar 1-0-3-0