Having announced his decision to retire from international cricket following the culmination of the Test, the spotlight was on Alastair Cook as the England opener prepared to bid a final goodbye.
The packed Oval crowd got its money’s worth with England skipper Joe Root electing to bat first after winning the toss. Cook did not disappoint as he made a fine 71.
Here, we take a closer look at what could be Cook’s penultimate innings in Test cricket.
BALLS FACED: 190
It was almost as if fate had conspired to ensure a fitting finale for Cook in England colours. On a surface which was much slower compared to the ones previously in the series, an out-of-form Cook brought out his famed powers of concentration in a circumspect innings which frustrated the Indian bowlers. Much more confident and assured outside the off-stump, the England opener played to his strengths as he crawled towards a 57th Test half-century. It was not the most fluent of Cook’s innings but it was one which served as a reminder of his abilities to absorb pressure.
Having perished outside the off-stump for most of the series, Cook was much more watchful around the area. His defence and awareness of his off-stump were on point as he forced the bowlers to ultimately bowl to his strengths. Frustrating the Indian pacers with his risk-free approach outside the off-stump, Cook profited immensely whenever they strayed on to his pads. He collected most of runs flicking through the fine-leg region and even brought out his trademark cover drive – a sign of his confidence given how rarely he uses the stroke.
While Cook did hold up one end nicely for England, his inability to up the scoring-rate would ultimately prove costly for the hosts who lost a flurry of wickets following the opener’s dismissal. While he did guard against most of his deficiencies outside the off-stump, there was a momentary lapse of concentration while he was batting on 37. Ishant Sharma, Cook’s nemesis for much of the series, had the opener in all sorts of trouble after lunch and even induced an outside edge off his bat which Ajinkya Rahane put down in the slip cordon.
VERDICT – 7/10
While it is unfortunate that it has taken so long for England’s all-time leading run-scorer to come to the party in his final series, Cook’s innings on Friday will serve as a reminder to the hosts of what they will be missing. Playing with a steely determination that has for long been his forte, Cook showed the Test purists the virtue of patience in a carefully crafted innings. He will be disappointed to miss out on a farewell ton but given the way England’s batting collapsed following his dismissal, his 71-run knock might well be worth its weight in gold.
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