Pietersen and Cook put England on top

Published: Saturday, March 4, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Nagpur:England's debutant opener Alastair Cook scored a brilliant maiden Test century and, in the company of hard-hitting Kevin Pietersen, flayed the Indian attack as the visitors stretched their overall lead to 367 on the fourth day of the first Test at the VCA ground here today.

By close of play on the fourth day, England had reached 297 for three wickets with Cook batting on 104 and Paul Collingwood unbeaten 36. England had earlier taken a 70-run first innings lead by dismissing India for 323 in reply to their first essay total of 393.

The depleted England side, who lost their regular captain Michael Vaughan and pace bowler Simon Jones to injury and vice captain Marcus Trescothick to 'personal reasons', showed what team work, determination and the will to fight can do to a side against an India team full of proven players and super stars.

England, excepting on the first day, have dominated all the other three days to reach this position.

Determination and fighting spirit was most aptly seen in the knock by 21-year-old Cook. He took to the challenge of playing on spinning tracks, not having played in the sub-continent before.

Though this wicket was more of a batsman's wicket, Cook survived the heat and bowling of two of the greatest spinners of this era in Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh to become only the 15th Englishman and 79th batsman worldwide to score a century on Test debut.

He made his unbeaten 104 from 248 balls which was studded with 12 hits to the fence.

Cook was well supported by Pietersen who joined him with the score on 97 for two having lost two quick wickets and quickly got into his rhythm as he tore the Indian bowling apart.

The South Africa-born Englishman took on Kumble after being given a chance by Kaif when he was just on nin off the bowling of Harbhajan Singh, hitting two glorious on drives off Kumble in one over and then pulling S Sreesanth from the front foot to the mid-wicket boundary, following it up with a thunderous off drive for his second boundary of the over.

Pietersen was also lucky not to be given out when he offered a return catch to Kumble on 36. Third umpire I Shivram turned down the appeal though repeated slow-motion TV replays showed otherwise.

The wicket which still looked good for batting even on the fourth day, did not pose much problems for the Englishmen though Harbhajan got a few to turn and bounce from the rough.

Pietersen, taking advantage of the luck running for him, then reached his 50 off just 58 balls which was peppered with nine glorious boundaries.

Pietersen got another reprieve when he was on 51 when he tried to loft Kumble over the infield on the off stump but only managed to spoon the ball into the air towards cover where Sreesanth dropped a sitter.

At the other end, Cook was batting extremely well as he also brought up his second 50 of the match which came after facing 146 deliveries and had six boundaries in it.

Cook held one end up while Pietersen went for the bowling hammer and tong, showing patience and resilience much needed for an opener.

Pietersen's luck, however, finally ran out when he tried to pull Kumble but only managed to sky it where Rahul Dravid, running from slip, took a simple catch at leg slip. Pietersen made 87 which came from 100 balls and was studded with 14 boundaries and a six.

Scorecard of Day 4

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