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  • India v England, 3rd Test, Kolkata, 2nd day

Cook puts India to the sword

The Report by Siddarth Ravindran
December 6, 2012 « Dodson chasing pigs & squirrels to prepare for Johnson | Chartbeat test »
England 216 for 1 (Cook 136*, Compton 57) trail India 316 (Tendulkar 76, Gambhir 60, Dhoni 52, Panesar 4-90) by 100 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

File photo: Alastair Cook made his third hundred in three Tests in this series (ESPN is not carrying images from the series due to restrictions on the media) © Associated Press
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Last week, England trounced India on the sort of raging turner MS Dhoni has routinely demanded this season. This week, on the sort of flat track at Eden Gardens where India's batsmen have thrived in the past few years, England gave a lesson in old-fashioned Test-match batting. The vast opening stand built on the advantage provided by the immaculate bowling on the first day, and by stumps England were at 216 for 1, just 100 behind, and India were looking as flat as the pitch.

The records continued to tumble for Alastair Cook. He now has the most Test centuries for an England batsman, became the youngest batsman to 7000 Test runs, and has five hundreds in five Tests as captain. He also has the most runs by an England captain on an India tour, breaking the 51-year record set by Ted Dexter, who was honoured by the Cricket Association of Bengal at the start of this Test.

Cook was helped by a surface that offered little to the bowlers, a lightning outfield, and by what could prove one of the costliest mistakes of the series. Cheteshwar Pujara, fielding at first slip instead of his usual short leg, had a low chance from Cook but perhaps hindered by the shin pads he had on, he couldn't get down in time to clasp it. Cook was on 19 at that stage, and had survived a probing spell from India's quick bowlers.

After that, though, Cook was rarely under pressure. The effortless punches through cover made an appearance, the more powerful cuts were deployed against wide deliveries, and the spinners were attacked early on. In his 151th Test innings, Cook hit only his ninth six, launching R Ashwin, who was again unable to maintain a consistent line and length, over long-on. The sweep was used effectively against the spinners, quick singles were taken, and after a couple of hours of getting properly set, the scoring picked up in the half hour before tea.

For the volume of runs he has made, Cook hasn't made a name as a quick run-getter in Tests, but he scored more than twice as much as his batting partner Nick Compton in their 165-run stand. The dawdling strike-rate didn't bother Compton, who watchfully played out everything thrown at him by the Indian attack. It was only after he was well in that he brought out some of his strokes, including a down-the-track swipe over Pragyan Ojha's head for six.

With Cook seamlessly taking over the captaincy, and Compton already putting on two 100-plus partnerships for the first wicket, Andrew Strauss has not been missed. Compton brought up his maiden Test half-century with a controlled hook off Ishant Sharma, and with England in command, the only energetic Indians were the ones in the stands entertaining themselves with a series of Mexican waves.

India had been tight with the new ball, hardly giving away anything loose. But as the ball lost its shine, the attack also began to fade. The spinners dropped it short or strayed on leg stump far too often, and the England batsmen regularly took a run after pushing the ball straight to a fielder who was supposed to cut off the single.

Cook cruised to his 23rd Test century, with a paddle-sweep, and Compton also showed his confidence with a field-bisecting on-drive for four to move to 57. The next ball, though, he was adjudged lbw though he seemed to have gloved Ojha while attempting a paddle-sweep. There was no respite for India yet, as Cook continued to find the boundary regularly, and Jonathan Trott coolly moved to an unbeaten 21 as he searched for his first big score of the series.

James Anderson had shown his reverse-swing mastery on the first day, and though India also got the old ball to swerve around a bit, the settled England batsmen weren't troubled by it much.

There wasn't too much of a fuss in the morning either, when though MS Dhoni added a half-century to his prolific run at Eden Gardens, India were bowled out for 316, at least 100 short of what was considered a good total on a flat track. With Cook still hungry for more, and England's more aggressive batsmen yet to get their chance here, India face another tough day in the field on Friday.

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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