Fairytale ton for Alastair Cook in last Test as England close in on victory over India

Cook scored his 33rd and final Test ton on a memorable day at the Oval. (AFP)
Updated 10 September 2018
0

Fairytale ton for Alastair Cook in last Test as England close in on victory over India

Alastair Cook marked his final England innings with a fairytale 100 before James Anderson became the joint most successful fast bowler in Test history by sparking an India collapse at the Oval on Monday.

Cook made 147 and Joe Root, his successor as England captain, 125 as the hosts piled up 423 for eight declared in their second innings of the fifth Test.

Anderson then had both Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara plumb lbw as India, needing 464 for an unlikely win, slumped to one for two in reply.

That double strike meant Anderson had equalled Australia great Glenn McGrath’s mark for the most Test wickets taken by any fast bowler of 563.

India captain Virat Kohli, a thorn in England’s side with 593 runs this series, was then caught behind for a golden duck off Stuart Broad to leave the tourists reeling.

At stumps, India — already 3-1 down in this five-match series — were heading for defeat at 58 for three, despite KL Rahul’s gutsy 46 not out, with no side having made more in the fourth innings to win a Test than the West Indies’ 418 for seven against Australia at St. John’s, Antigua in 2002/03.

The day belonged to the 33-year-old Cook, who is retiring from international cricket after this match.

The Essex left-handed opener, who made 104 not out on debut against India at Nagpur in 2006, became just the fifth player to score a hundred in both their first and last Tests after Australia’s Reggie Duff, Bill Ponsford and Greg Chappell and India’s Mohammad Azharuddin.

England resumed on 114 for two, 154 runs ahead, with Cook 43 not out and Root unbeaten on 29.

A capacity crowd, willing Cook to score a hundred following his first-innings 71, gave him the first of several standing ovations as he walked out to bat on a sunny morning.

And he soon had another when Cook, from his second ball of the bay, turned fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah legside for four to go to fifty.

Cook later cut left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja for another well-struck boundary.

But Root was reprived on 46 when an edge off Jadeja was dropped by Ajinkya Rahane at slip.

It was another blow to an India side handicapped by the loss of fast bowler Ishant Sharma, who bowled just eight overs in the innings before succumbing to an ankle injury.

When Cook squirted a single off Mohammed Shami he moved past Sri Lanka great Kumar Sangakkara’s tally of 12,400 runs and into fifth place in the list of all-time leading Test run-scorers.

Meanwhile Root drove Jadeja for six.

Cook, about to become a father for the third time, was already England’s leading Test run scorer and century maker, with this match seeing him extend his national appearance record to 161 Tests.

He completed his 33rd Test century in unusual fashion when, having run a single to go to 97, a wild overthrow from Bumrah gave him four bonus runs.

It was his first Test hundred since a marathon 244 against Australia at Melbourne in December.

Root, 92 not out at lunch, was dropped on 94 by first slip Pujara, perhaps distracted by diving wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant, off Shami.

A quick single saw an elated Root to his first Test hundred since he made 136 against the West Indies at Edgbaston in August 2017.

But with the England captains past and present in command while sharing a third-wicket stand of 259, they both fell in successive balls to part-time off-spinner and Test debutant Hanuma Vihari.

Root saw a slog-sweep held in the deep and, with the batsmen having crossed, Cook faced the next ball only to be caught behind by Pant edging a cut.

It was the end of a near six-and-a-half hour innings of 286 balls including 14 fours.

Once more spectators were on their feet, Cook bowing out with a record of 12,472 Test runs, including 33 hundreds, at an average of 45.35.

England’s tail then hit out against a ragged and demoralized India before Root declared.

The day’s play ended with Cook fielded the ball at short leg, prompting yet more cheers and another ovation as he led England off the field.


NFL PLAYOFF PREVIEW: Patriots, Chiefs, Saints and Rams one game away from glory

Updated 19 January 2019
0

NFL PLAYOFF PREVIEW: Patriots, Chiefs, Saints and Rams one game away from glory

LONDON: And then there were just four.

The NFL’s conference championship games kick off on Sunday, with the Patriots and Chiefs contesting the AFC side of the draw, the Saints and Rams facing off in the NFC. With just one game standing between the four sides and a shot at Super Bowl glory, Arab News examines why each team can make it to Atlanta for the Feb. 3 showdown.

AFC: KANSAS CITY CHIEFS vs NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Put simply, the Chiefs can win their match-up with the Patriots — and probably the whole thing — because of Patrick Mahomes. If he performs at the scintillating levels he has produced since the very first week, New England will find him too hot to handle.

Mahomes’ first season as a starter has been nothing short of miraculous, it was the second-best single season by a quarterback in NFL history. In a full 16-game season, he managed to complete 66 percent of his passes for 5,097 yards, 50 touchdowns, with a 113.8 passer rating. He is just the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 50 touchdowns and 5,000 yards in a single season, after Peyton Manning’s heroics in 2013.

And Mahomes’ efforts were needed for this Chiefs outfit who managed a 12-4 record in the regular season, despite their defense allowing a whopping 26.3 points per game. The defensive line could be the Chiefs’ downfall, but given the brilliance of Mahomes this season, fans at the Arrowhead could well be celebrating a first Super Bowl appearance since 1970.

Meanwhile, there will come a time when preview pieces such as these will have to stop featuring Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s Patriots. But, despite not being at their metronomic best, that time is not now. The New England juggernaut just keeps rolling on. A win next month in the Big Game would be the Patriots’ sixth title since 2001, and the secret to their success in winning the previous five has been coach Belichick and quarterback Brady’s ability to outsmart any opponent. If the legendary duo can come up with a way to do the same to Andy Reid’s Chiefs, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who thought the Patriots would not go all the way.

In the final weeks of the regular season and first rounds of the playoffs, the Patriots also improved their running game immeasurably. It all clicked into place against the Chargers in the divisional game where Sony Michel looked unstoppable. Couple this with the traditionally blistering pass game of Brady-Gronkowski-Edelman, and that air of invincibility so associated with the Patriots will once again shroud the greatest team of the 21st century.

NFC: NEW ORLEANS SAINTS vs LOS ANGELES RAMS


Outside of Missouri, Boston and California, New Orleans are most people’s pick for Super Bowl glory this year. And aside from the emotional attachment many NFL fans have to the Saints, their performances on the field this year would warrant a second title in a decade. They will need to come out of blocks early, though, as their slow starts in the regular season threatened to lose them games they should have won easily. The Rams have a fantastic offensive line, and if the Saints are asleep in the opening stages, they could find themselves two scores behind in the blink of an eye.

Coach Sean Payton is renowned for taking risks — think the fake punt against Philadelphia in the division game last week — and always seems more comfortable calling plays when ahead. And while usually ruthless at killing games off, it was the Rams who almost pulled off a remarkable comeback in the Superdome earlier this year. The Saints will need that ruthless streak if they are to win it all.

It has been a breathtaking turnaround for the Rams since they appointed head coach Sean McVay— the youngest coach in modern NFL history — in 2017. After years of mediocrity in St. Louis and a poor start after returning to LA, McVay has revolutionized this franchise, which now find themselves one game away from the Super Bowl.

In Jared Goff, too, they have a superstar quarterback — protecting him from the workmanlike defense of the Saints will be key if the Rams are to upset the apple cart and overcome New Orleans. If Goff stays safe in the pocket and the Rams utilize a mixed offensive game, the Rams faithful could be traipsing east for the big one next month, knowing their team has beaten one of the best on the way to a fairytale ending to the season.