Kolkata Test: Third consecutive century by Cook puts England in command
Skipper Alastair Cook created history by cracking his 23rd Test century, the most by an Englishman, and his third consecutive one in the series as England took complete control of the third cricket Test against a listless India here today.
Skipper Alastair Cook remained unbeaten on a brilliant 136 to lay the platform for a mammoth first innings total as the visitors cruised to a comfortable 216 for one at close on the second day.
In reply to India's first innings score of 316, England put up a solid batting display and rode on a 165-run opening stand between Cook and Nick Compton (57) as Indian bowlers had a disappointing day.
Currently England need another 101 runs with nine wickets in hand to take the first innings lead and consolidate the position from there on.
Having scored his 23rd Test ton which is highest by any English batsmen, Cook also created a world record of notching five centuries from the five Test matches as captain.The England captain led from the front as he struck a six and 19 boundaries in his nearly five hour long undefeated stay at the crease and became the youngest batsman to go past 7000 Test runs at the age of 27 years 347 days, eclipsing Sachin Tendulkar's record of 28 years and 193 days.
In his sparkling innings, Cook gave a solitary chance while on 17, when he was dropped by Cheteshwar Pujara of the bowling of Zaheer Khan --- a miss that eventually proved too costly for the Indians and it will be difficult to bounce back in the series which is levelled 1-1.
Earlier resuming the day at 273 for seven, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni scored a half-century before the hosts were bowled out inside the first hour of the day. Dhoni scored 52 off 114 balls with five fours and two huge sixes off Monty Panesar's bowling and was the last man out when he unsuccessfully tried to fend a short-pitch delivery from Steven Finn.
The Indian bowling proved to be pedestrian with an out of form Ishant Sharma providing a lot of loose deliveries. Even the spinners, especially off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, looked woefully out of form while left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha also toiled without much success. While Zaheer had figures of none for 48 from 16 overs, Ishant gave away 35 runs in his 15 wicketless overs.
The sad part about Ishant's bowling was lack of rhythm as he also overstepped on couple of occasions. Ojha however gave India their only breakthrough in the final session of the day when Compton was given out leg before and the decision by New Zealand umpire Rod Tucker looked to be a dubious one. After being put down at first slip by Pujara, Cook did not have any trouble negotiating the Indian attack as he raced to his 50 in the second session.
Dhoni kept on rotating his bowlers but the English openers put on 100 partnership before tea, their second century-plus opening partnership in the series. Just after tea, Cook drove Sharma past point for three runs to become the youngest to join the club of 7,000 Test runs. The record-breaking 23rd century was then on cards as Cook completed it with a huge smile and punching in the air before acknowledging the feat to the present 1,000-odd English Barmy Army in the B-Block of Eden Gardens.
Cook displayed all the shots in his armoury bisecting the field with ease and his cover drive off length deliveries bowled by Zaheer Khan were a treat to watch. Zaheer changed ends and tried to use the reverse swing but the England captain was equal to the task as he negotiated everything successfully.
Earlier, it was the 27th half-century by Dhoni that helped India cross the 300-run mark but the skipper didn't get much help from lower-order. Having started the proceedings of the second day, James Anderson created pressure from the High Court end, while Monty Panesar bowled cleverly using a lot of variations from the Club House End.
Panesar added two more to his tally to become the most successful England bowler with four for 90 while Anderson claimed three for 89 though could not add up to his yesterday's tally.
India had a jittery start when Zaheer, on two, edged one at the second slip in the third over of the day but only to be dropped by Swann off Anderson's bowling. The English pacer again troubled the Indians with his clever use of reverse swing but was unlucky in giving the first breakthrough. Zaheer however could not prolong his innings as in the very next over he was trapped leg before by Panesar. Panesar seemed to be on a roll when he returned to castle Ishant Sharma (0) in his next over as India looked to be in danger of being bowled out short of 300-run mark.
After being reduced to 296 for nine, Dhoni stitched a 20-run partnership with No 11 Ojha, who supported his skipper playing out 19 balls, though without scoring. Field was spread out for Dhoni who preferred to score in boundaries or taking a run of the last ball as he tried to keep Ojha out of Anderson.
India crossed the 300-mark with Dhoni lofting Panesar over long-off as the Indian skipper followed it up with another six, this time over long on. Dhoni raced to the half-century with a boundary over extra cover but only to get out in the next ball when his top-edge that flew over gully was caught by Swann who completed a fine catch running a few yards sideways.