England tightened their grip in the fifth and final Test when they set India an improbable target of 464 and then brushed away India's top order to have them struggling at 58 for 3 at stumps on the fourth day on Monday (September 10). The strong crowd present at The Oval in London witnessed England's favourite son, Alastair Cook, score his 33rd Test hundred in his final vigil at the crease as a Test player. The former captain was involved in a monumental stand of 259 with Joe Root (125), who stroked his way to a handsome hundred, his first after 27 innings.
India lost their most successful bowler of the tour, Ishant Sharma, when he hurt his ankle after bowling his first over of the morning. Without their most experienced seamer, the Indian attack struggled to put a cap on the scoring rate, handing the hosts the upper hand in the game. Root declared the innings at 423 for 8, leaving India to bat out 18 overs today.
Plays of the Day
"Cook century might be written in the stars," said the English skipper before the start of this game. The stage was set for the former Englishman to bow out of international cricket on a high and so he did. When on 95, Cook tapped Ravindra Jadeja behind square on the off side and strolled for a single. The deep cover fieldsman hurled a flat throw towards the non-striker's end but Jadeja wasn't expecting it and there wasn't anybody backing up as the ball sped away for four overthrows. It was quite hilarious but Cook, who has largely struggled this year, wasn't complaining and out came a big grin and the arms went aloft. The crowd erupted and applauded their hero in his final hurray. More than being satisfied, Cook looked relieved. He became the first English player, and the fifth overall (Reginald Duff, Bill Ponsford, Greg Chappell and Mohammed Azharuddin are the others), to score a hundred in both his first and the last Test.
Performer of the Day
There was a huge sense of anticipation when Cook remained unbeaten on 46 on day three. He resumed the day batting cautiously but slowly started moving better and better as the day progressed. Driving the ball wasn't his strongest point during his career but Cook drove the ball classily and displayed his full repertoire. The 33-year-old soaked in the never-ending applause when he reached the magical three figures and, like he has done all through his career, put his head down and carried on. He was eventually caught behind by Hanuma Vihari for a monumental 147. During his marathon knock of 286 balls, which consisted of 14 boundaries, Cook went past Kumar Sangakkara's tally of 12,400 runs (to become the most prolific left handed batsman in test history) and will finish his career ranked fifth in the all-time list of most run-getters in Tests.
India still need a further 406 to win this game, a task as arduous as climbing the Everest without oxygen. They would aim to offer resistance and fight their way to earn a draw and keep the series scoreline to 3-1. England, who are just seven wickets away from making it 4-1, will be keen to finish off things at the earliest on the final day of what has been a gruelling five-Test series