Essex sign India batsman Murali Vijay for rest of English county season

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Murali Vijay set for Essex

Essex have signed India batsman Murali Vijay for the last three games of the County Championship season.

The 34-year-old, who played his country’s first two Tests against England this summer, joins as a replacement overseas player following Peter Siddle’s departure.

Vijay made a half-century against his new side during a tour match in July but was dropped by India after registering a pair at Lord’s.

Head Coach Anthony McGrath said: “We’re delighted that Murali has chosen to come here, he’s a great batsman who can score runs at the top of the order.

“Vijay’s run-scoring ability means he can be the difference-maker in a game, and that skill is something we were looking to bring in towards the end of the season and something that we’re excited about.”

Vijay added: “I was here with the India side about a month ago and saw first-hand just how good the crowd is. I can’t wait to play for Essex and hopefully win some matches.”

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ENGLAND v INDIA: Hosts seven down as Ishant Sharma strikes

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Seamer Ishant Sharma struck twice in one over as England reached 198-7 at stumps on the opening day of the fifth Test.

England captain Joe Root fell for duck in the final session after winning the toss and electing bat in the fifth and final Test against India at The Oval on Friday.

In the post tea session, Alastair Cook – in his 161st and final Test appearance before his international retirement –  was bowled for 71 by Jasprit Bumrah.

Captain Root was then trapped lbw by Bumrah for a duck as England struggled to 133-3 in the 64th over. Thereafter, Jonny Bairstow was caught behind for a duck and Ben Stokes was out lbw by Ravindra Jadeja for 11 as England reached 171-5 after 78 overs.

Earlier, Keaton Jennings fought hard for 23 off 75 balls before turning Jadeja into the hands of KL Rahul at leg slip.

Former captain Cook, England’s record Test run-scorer, was presented with a commemorative cap by Andrew Strauss before play started.

India made two changes with Jadeja replacing unfit fellow spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and middle-order batsman Hanuma Vihari given a Test debut after the tourists dropped all-rounder Hardik Pandya.

Follow the live scores below.

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Alastair Cook hopes time heals rift with former England team-mate Kevin Pietersen

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Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen.

Alastair Cook still hopes time can heal his rift with Kevin Pietersen – even though they have never spoken since the day the mercurial batsman was ditched by England four years ago.

Cook, about to call time on his own record-breaking career after his 161st Test at the Oval this week, admits the breakdown of relations between Pietersen and England went on to have a detrimental effect on his own batting.

Cook was captain in 2014 when Pietersen was sacked after a miserably unsuccessful and acrimonious Ashes winter.

A year later he was witness to England and Wales Cricket Board director Andrew Strauss‘ final decision that there was no way back into the fold for the exiled batsman.

Cook has been vilified in some quarters for his perceived role in the saga.

But he insists that – although he was relieved when Strauss made the call – his own instinct previously was to suggest a cooling-off period of six months before Pietersen’s international career finished for good.

That did not happen, but nonetheless Cook still hopes he and Pietersen could yet be reconciled in the future.

He told the BBC‘s Test Match Special: “I haven’t spoken to him since that day, but I think time is a great healer.

“We spent a lot of time together and created some amazing memories.”

In fact, Cook revealed, there were never any cross words between the former team-mates face to face.

“The thing is, we never fell out,” Cook added.

“Since then, the internet has fallen out for us.

“As two blokes, if you take cricket out of it, we have never fallen out.

“He will have a different opinion, I’m sure.”

Cook has come to the conclusion the ECB could have handled the situation better – and hinted he was not portrayed especially fairly.

“I was involved in the decision at first, but the England captain doesn’t have the final say on hiring and firing,” Cook said.

“I agreed with it, but I said, ‘Why don’t we give him some time off, we can go away and maybe KP can come back later on?’

“(Strauss’ predecessor) Paul Downton wanted clarity, a clean break – because people would always be asking when is he coming back.

“You had to back his decisions, because that’s what his job was.

“The fall-out was pretty nasty, and I don’t think the ECB handled it well or appreciated how social media worked very well then.

“It was the toughest time of my career, and there’s no doubt it affected my batting.

“The day when Straussy came out and said Kevin wasn’t going to play for us any more, that was a massive weight off my shoulders.”

That does not necessarily mean, however, Cook is truly comfortable these days with the outcome or how it was achieved.

“I bore a lot of the brunt of it – I suppose that’s what being captain is… I will always be associated with (it),” Cook said.

“I would refute anyone saying that I was the one that chucked him down the stairs, but I was involved in the decision and I believed it was right at that time.

“Looking back, I can safely say all the decisions I made were done for the best of the England cricket team at that time.

“On that one, there were a lot of other people, way above my head, also involved in it.

“I felt like I was being left alone as the captain.”

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