Monday, June 24, 2024
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Cook ton helps erase deficit

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Ahmedabad: Captain Alastair Cook led a remarkable England fightback with a heroic unbeaten 168 as the defiant visitors wiped out India’s mammoth first innings lead with a gritty batting display to raise hopes of saving the first cricket Test here on Sunday.

The 27-year-old Cook displayed immense concentration and skill to not only notch up his 21st Test century under pressure, but also keep his team in the game as he steered England to 340 for five at close on the penultimate day, which saw the Sardar Patel track ease out quite a bit.

The England captain found an able ally in Matt Prior (84) as the duo put on an unfinished 141-run partnership to leave the Indians frustrated.

The spinners, who were expected to do the bulk of the damage, found it difficult to get wickets.

England, who conceded a mammoth 330-run first innings lead and were asked to follow-on, have now taken a lead of 10 runs, setting the stage for an interesting fifth day’s play on Monday with all three results possible.

India will look to claim the remaining five wickets as quickly as possible and push for a 1-0 lead in the four-match series.

England, on the other hand, will try to bat as much as possible and may even put pressure on India by taking a substantial lead on a tricky fifth day track.

Resuming on their overnight score of 111 for no loss, England lost the wickets of Nick Compton (37), Jonathan Trott (17), Kevin Pietersen (2), Ian Bell (22) and Samit Patel (0), but it was Cook who stood like a rock to hold the English innings together, showing superb endurance.

Cook batted the whole day with exemplary patience, determination and composure to remain unconquered.

Cook, who has faced 341 balls and struck 20 fours, was given splendid support by Prior, who was not out on 84 that came off 190 balls and contained 10 fours.

Not assured of an outright win, Indian pacer Umesh Yadav said the home team’s bowlers will have to put in a lot of effort on the final day to pack off the visitors.

“The wicket has become very flat. It helped the spinners earlier on but it has now become very easy to bat on it. There is no help for the bowlers. We have to put in a lot of effort to get something out of it. I took my wickets after putting in a lot of effort,” said Yadav who shone with a two-wicket burst in as many balls in the middle session of play.

“It will need a lot of patience tomorrow and a lot of effort to get wickets,” he said.

England batting coach Graham Gooch also conceded that the wicket had become very flat, and, while praising the batting efforts of Cook and Prior, pointed out that India still have the dominant hand.

“If you know your cricket, India are still in a strong position and still in a position to win. We have to take it ball by ball and not look too far ahead tomorrow,” said Gooch.

Gooch also praised Cook’s effort. “He (Cook) is one of the best players in the world. He crafted the innings, he was not flamboyant. It was an incredible effort,” said Gooch about Cook’s back-to-the-wall knock.

Meanwhile, Gautam Gambhir, who returned home following his grandmother’s death, is expected to join the team in Ahmedabad for the final day’s play on Monday.

Gambhir was bereaved when he lost his maternal grandmother Asha Gulati. She was 71 and suffered cardiac arrest on Saturday night.

Gambhir cut short his stay in Ahmedabad to return home and be with his family.

The batsman may have a role to play if India are to win the match. (PTI)

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