Captain Cook breaks a few records as he successfully navigates England through calm waters.
From early on in Alastair Cook’s innings, there was talk about a selection of records and milestones that he might reach during the day. Actually, that’s wrong. The talk was about records and milestones that he would reach during the day. After being dropped at slip by Pujara early in his innings, Cook’s progress was serene, steady and seemingly as effortless as taking a nice hot bath with extra bubbles. He overtook Sir Donald Bradman’s famous tally of 6996 runs and moments later reached 7000, at such a precise average of 50.00 that it could have been engineered by Rolex. No man who has scored so many runs in Test matches has reached the figure at such a young age, not even Sachin Tendulkar. Not long after, he was casually celebrating his 23rd Test hundred and standing alone as England’s leading centurion. Just to cap things off, he then surpassed Andrew Strauss’s volume of runs. It was inevitable and it was frankly all rather easy. We’d even go so far as to say that in this form, Cook bags hundreds as easily as Annie Lennox does Brit Awards. But just a bit more deservingly so.
We’ll overlook England’s latest dropped catch (Graeme Swann this time the culprit) and instead mock India’s. With Virender Sehwag allowed to go for a nice gentle stroll around the countryside somewhere near extra-cover, it fell to Cheteshwar Pujara to field at first slip. The edge off the bowling of Zaheer Khan did drop low, but the fielder got his hands to it. That the ball promptly flopped to the ground – much like Indian hopes – was a telling moment and the one chance that Cook would offer all day. Not many watchers could remember having seen Pujara ever field in the slips before, and the fact that he was still wearing his protective shin pads wouldn’t have helped him either (although we don’t think this was the main excuse, unlike Sky whose commentators seemed to think he was wearing a suit of armour). One hundred and nineteen runs later Cook was walking off unbeaten and looking forward to more time in the bath. The only criticism that can be directed to England on this fantastic day – after all, they’d wrapped up the tail surprisingly quickly – was that Nick Compton got out to a silly paddle sweep. That he’d made an untroubled half-century perhaps made his shot selection look all the more disappointing, and not even the possibility of a slight glove can overrule the collective head-shaking that plagued the 51allout bunker. Much like whenever we listen to a Dave Stewart-less Annie Lennox.
Such was the flatness of both the attack and the pitch, England can expect to bat long. Jonathan Trott could do with a big score like we could do with a stiff gin, but assuming England reach India’s total sometime around lunch, then the opportunity should be there for the remaining batsmen to pile on the misery. As for the home side? After a wretched day, they’ll struggle to be quite so bad again. But then we said that several times during the summer of 2011. Early wickets are their only hope.