LONDON, (Reuters) – England batsman Alastair Cook marked his 291st and final test innings in fitting fashion as he reached an unbeaten century against India on the fourth morning of the fifth test on Monday.
The 33-year-old opener, England’s most capped test player and record run scorer, began the day on 46 and moved fluently to 96 before some comical India fielding helped him to the milestone.
Cook worked Ravindra Jadeja for a single but Jasprit Bumrah’s wild throw in from the outfield went for four overthrows.
The left-hander removed his helmet and raised his bat as he milked the applause of the Oval crowd before embracing skipper Joe Root who reached lunch on 92 not out with Cook on 103 not out.
England were 243-2, a lead of 283 over a flagging India side who appeared to be going through the motions with the series already lost having fallen 3-1 behind in Southampton.
What might have been a test match of limited appeal has been transformed into the Alastair Cook show.
Tickets were being snapped up outside the ground to witness Cook’s final bow in his 161st test match.
The sizeable fourth day crowd at the historic south London venue were not to be disappointed.
They gave him a standing ovation when he walked out to bat in morning sunshine, another when he reached 50 with a trademark boundary off his legs and another when he got to 76 to move past Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara into fifth on the all-time list of test run scorers.
The loudest and longest, however, was reserved for the moment Cook reached his 33rd test century.
Cook, now the leading left-handed run scorer in test history, struck eight boundaries on his way to three figures.
He also scored 71 in the first innings as he returned to form after a mediocre season and will go into international retirement with an average of 45.
Cook also becomes the only the fifth batsman to score a century in his first and last test matches — having scored one to launch his career against India in Nagpur 12 years ago.