Alastair Cook displayed his all-too familiar obduracy and powered England to a position of strength in the fifth Test against India, laying the groundwork for a swansong befitting a distinguished career.
Cook was unbeaten on 46 runs in his last international innings as England reached 114/2 at stumps on day three at the Oval. At end of play, he had put on 52 runs for the third wicket with skipper Joe Root (29) as England took a 154-run lead.
Post Tea, Cook and Keaton Jennings (10) extended their opening partnership to 27. It wasn’t a frustrating stand yet, but it became one for India as they wasted both reviews on the openers within three overs after the break.
On both occasions, Ravindra Jadeja (1/36) and keeper Rishabh Pant convinced skipper Virat Kohli to go for the reviews, despite the ball missing the off-stump. Mohammed Shami (1/32) then bowled Jennings in the 13th over.
Cook and Moeen Ali (20) put on 35 runs for the second wicket and took England past 50 in the 24th over. The latter enjoyed a life on 14, as KL Rahul dropped him at second slip off Ishant Sharma (0/11).
Jadeja did get Ali soon after, bowling him through the gate as the ball spun a mile after kicking up from the rough. India had the match ball changed on two occasions thereafter, as Cook and Root played out the remaining overs without much ado, bringing up their 50-stand off 80 balls. The score crossed 100 in the 38th over as the hosts assumed a commanding position in this Test.
This was after Jadeja scored 86 not out as India finished their first innings at 292 (95 overs), conceding a 40-run lead. The left-hander faced 156 balls and hit 11 fours as well as a six, narrowing the gap between the two teams.
Post lunch, India tried to extend their innings as long as possible. Ishant Sharma (4) though fell in the fourth over after the break, caught behind off Moeen Ali (2/50). At the other end, Adil Rashid (1/19) dismissed Mohammed Shami (1) who again tried to hit out instead of putting a price on his wicket.
Jasprit Bumrah (0) did just that, and batted out 14 deliveries, which allowed Jadeja to smash the ball around. In doing so, he put on 32 runs for the final wicket. Jadeja reached his ninth Test half-century off 113 ball. England were so flustered that they took the new ball in hope of dismissing the last wicket quickly.
The partnership, and India’s innings ended through a run-out in the 95th over as Jadeja finished unbeaten. Earlier, Hanuma Vihari scored a half-century on debut as India reached 240/7 at lunch. Starting from overnight 174 for six, Vihari and Jadeja looked to bat for time and dig India out of the precarious position they found themselves in.
James Anderson (2/54) and Stuart Broad (1/50) bowled a threatening first spell, but both batsmen played with patience. There were a couple edges, though they didn’t go to hand or fell short.
Runs started trickling in as India scored 33 runs in the first hour of play. 200 came up in the 63rd over, with the duo adding 50 runs for their seventh-wicket partnership off 117 balls. Jadeja started taking a few more liberties with his stroke-making, while Vihari stayed calm and looked to score when the opportunity presented itself. In the 71st over, England reviewed a caught behind decision against Jadeja, but there was no edge.
Vihari (56) then reached his maiden Test half-century off 104 balls, justifying the decision to include him ahead of Karun Nair. Just when it appeared that he would take India to lunch without any loss, Ali struck against the run of play and dismissed Vihari.
(With PTI imputs)