Tough Cookie makes it harder for India
England captain keeps Dhoni's bowlers at bay with splendid 168 as hosts need 5 wkts to win at Motera
Graham Gooch believes Alastair Cook’s superb unbeaten 168 is as good an innings as he has ever seen from the left-hander and proves he is blossoming under the responsibility of being England captain.
By stumps on Day Four of the first Test — his first as permanent captain — Cook had batted throughout the four sessions of England’s second innings and helped them successfully overturn a mammoth initial deficit of 330 runs.
Cook’s 21st Test century, combined with an unbroken stand of 141 with Matt Prior (84no), took England to 340 for five at stumps and a lead of 10 heading into the final day here.
Gooch, England’s batting coach, has spent much of the past decade, for club and country, being impressed by what he has seen from his Essex protege — but he does not believe he has seen anything better than this knock.
“Some players blossom under the captaincy as a performer, and he has certainly blossomed under that responsibility here,” said Gooch, who as of yesterday stands one behind Cook in England’s list of all-time most prolific centurions.
“It was great commitment from our guys and great fighting spirit. There was belief in their own ability, and Alastair led from the front as captain. That will do him the world of good to put that score on the board, showing what he is capable of and what this team is capable of.
“I think that was as good an innings as I’ve seen him play, because he was under great pressure after a poor first-innings performance.”
Cook’s great strengths, Gooch points out, are his ability to adapt to conditions and an awareness of his own limitations. “He can do it because he is one of the best players in the world,” the former England captain added.
“It is not just physical skill I’m talking about — you need skill between the ears.
“This lad has had a great temperament from when he first started and came here (to India) to make his debut (at Nagpur in 2006).
“He proved even then the priceless skill of knowing how to play. From the outset, he knew what he could do and what he couldn’t do — and he still has that skill today. He crafted a century today. It wasn’t a flamboyant innings - he did the job that was necessary.”
Pietersen fails again
Where Cook succeeded, Kevin Pietersen — among others — failed, for the second day in succession.
“I think Kevin will be very disappointed with both innings,” said Gooch.
While some of England’s other batsman have underperformed, Matt Prior has done himself and his team proud already.
England’s wicketkeeper-batsman played against type, curbing his naturally attacking style to make sure Cook had the support he deserved.
“Matt has been a fantastic cricketer for England over the past few years,” said Gooch.
“He has played some great counter-attacking innings,” Gooch said.