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
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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.


Riyad Mahrez comes of age at Manchester City in search for glory

Updated 16 November 2018
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Riyad Mahrez comes of age at Manchester City in search for glory

  • Riyad Mahrez signed for City in a $76.6 million move
  • All eyes were on how Pep Guardiola’s only summer signing would add an extra edge to a record-breaking side

MANCHESTER: It took eight games for Riyad Mahrez to show why Manchester City paid a club record £60 million ($76.6 million) for his services.
All eyes were on how Pep Guardiola’s only summer signing would add an extra edge to a side that broke records on the way to claiming the Premier League title last season.
The Algerian winger came off the bench just past the hour mark against Cardiff two months ago and slid home his first City goal from close range before curling in a second with a fine left-foot finish.
The brace provided lift-off for the 27-year-old and his confident displays since have quickly dispelled any doubts that he would struggle to adapt to a system under Guardiola that demands commitment as well as class.
For Mahrez, he has been working to fulfil this footballing dream ever since he was a youngster practicing his skills on the streets of Paris suburb Sarcelles, encouraged by his late father Ahmed.
“I’m proud,” he says of an inspiring journey that began professionally in the French Second Division with Quimper in 2009, then at Le Havre a year later, before joining Leicester City for just £400,000 in 2014.
“It’s not easy to arrive here (at City), to come to a club like this. You need to work very hard to get here and when you do it’s not the final thing.
“You still need to work even more, to perform, to be humble, and to try to go higher. Of course, I want to do even better.
“I didn’t feel any pressure when I came because of the price, I don’t think about this stuff.
“I’m feeling good now at City, playing good at the moment and we are winning games. But it’s not finished yet and we need to keep going. The season is very long and we all have to keep going like this.”
While Mahrez has already won the league title with Leicester during a fairytale 2015-16 season that also saw him crowned the PFA Player of the Year, he remains ambitious and convinced he can still improve.
A yardstick has perhaps been set by Liverpool’s Egyptian frontman Mohamed Salah, who took his game to another level with 44 goals last season, winning the PFA and Football Writers’ Player of the Year awards and named third in the 2018 Best FIFA Men’s Player.
“Salah had a very good season. And we have a good team, we can score a lot of goals and I hope to do more, like he has done,” Mahrez told Arab News exclusively.
“But the most important thing is that we keep on winning as a team, and I’m going to try to help the team to do this, to score goals, make assists.”
The performances of Mahrez, who has claimed four more goals since the Cardiff match, and eight-goal Salah on Merseyside could well be integral to how their clubs eventually fare in this campaign.
Both teams are unbeaten in the league after 12 games with City two points clear of Liverpool, a lead confirmed by the impressive 3-1 win over neighbors United in the recent Manchester derby.
But Mahrez knows the mesmerising manner in which they have roared to the top will mean nothing if they are not there next May.
“The derby was special, a good atmosphere, a good win, I’m very happy,” he said after his first experience of the rivalry.
“But it’s not that because we beat United we are going to win the league. You can’t think like that, there’s still a long way to go and we have to keep focus.
“We have a good team, we are playing well. We just need to keep working hard for each other and we know we are going to be there at the end of the season. That’s the target.
“I won the title with Leicester, but I came here to win more trophies.
“I’m not going to say I’m going to win this or that, but of course this is a club that wants to win trophies. Win the Premier League, I don’t know. Win the Champions League, I don’t know.
“But we are going to make everything we can to try to do that. That’s the challenge for us.”