Cook's farewell century flattens India

Alastair Cook struck a brilliant 147 to retire on a high, while England pacers James Anderson and Stuart Broad ripped through the Indian top-order to leave the visiting side in all sorts of trouble.

Alastair Cook celebrates scoring a century in his final Test innings.   -  Getty Images

There was a party at the Oval on Monday and it felt like India's cricketers were uninvited spectators. First, Alastair Cook signed off in fairytale fashion, making 147 in his final Test innings. Joe Root then stroked his way back into form with a century of his own as England set India 464 for victory.

 

In the evening, James Anderson equalled Glenn McGrath's record of 563 Test wickets as a shell-shocked touring side slumped to two for three. At stumps on the fourth day of the fifth Test, India was 58 for three, downcast, weary, and staring at yet another defeat.

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Shikhar Dhawan was first to fall, trapped leg-before by Anderson. Cheteshwar Pujara departed in the same over, in similar fashion. Virat Kohli was out first-ball, poking at a Stuart Broad delivery. They were singing in the stands as play drew to a close; India was in no mood to join in.

A good crowd of 19,300 had streamed into Kennington in the morning to bid Cook goodbye. If they had hoped for the perfect farewell, they were not disappointed. Cook, 46 overnight, got to his fifty off the day's second ball, clipping Jasprit Bumrah off his pads to the square-leg boundary.

He stayed busy, driving Ravindra Jadeja through the covers, playing a late cut that raced to third-man, taking every single on offer. Each run Cook scored was met with a cheer. When he got to 76, overtaking Kumar Sangakkara into fifth place on the list of Test run scorers, he was applauded heartily.

India had gone into containing mode, legs tired, field spread, minds fatigued. It did not help that Ishant Sharma had walked off with pain in his left ankle after bowling one over, never to return. It meant Jadeja had to bowl, eventually, 47 overs on his own.

A hush fell over the ground as Cook entered the eighties. One ball from Jadeja kept low as he sought to cut; there were gasps from the crowd. Another leapt out of the rough and came off the leading-edge; it prompted a collective intake of breath.

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Cook remained on 89 for 14 balls, struggling to clear the in-field: the Oval was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. He finally entered the nineties with a scrambled single, and then drove Bumrah straight past mid-off. Cook took one nervous glance at the score-board; nobody dared to move.

When the moment came, it felt like a bizarre anti-climax. On 96, Cook dabbed the ball towards point and jogged over for a single. Bumrah, fielding on the boundary, hurled the ball in; it was a wild throw and there was no-one backing up. As Pujara chased after the ball in vain, watching it rush to the fence for four overthrows, Cook raised his arms in triumph. A wave of relief washed over him as he completed his 33rd Test hundred, soaking in an ovation that lasted several minutes.



India's fielders applauded, to a man. In the dressing room, Anderson leapt up and down in joy. The tension had escaped of a sudden, as if someone had punctured a balloon.

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At the other end, Root had played with greater freedom after completing his half-century. He swept Jadeja without hesitation, and on one occasion stepped down the track to deposit him in the Micky Stewart members' pavilion. Shortly after lunch, Root completed his 14th Test century, off 151 balls.

It was G. Hanuma Vihari who finally broke through, claiming Root as he slog-swept. Cook was out next ball, after six and a half hours at the crease. India's fielders ran up to him to offer their congratulations. He walked off to deafening applause, giving the crowd a wave with his bat. One last time.