For the second day in succession, Alastair Cook finished the day unbeaten with the bat and had Australia’s players swarming to shake his hand as they left the field of play.
The England opener, who has been under all kinds of pressures leading up to this Test due to his recent failures, showed his unflappable best on the third day of the Boxing Day Ashes Test to register his second double-ton of the year.
Cook remained unbeaten on 244 with No.11 James Anderson for company when stumps were called on day three with England at 491-9, a full 164 runs ahead of the hosts’ first innings total.
Here, we look at the key talking points of Cook’s immaculate double-ton which could not have come at a better time for the former England skipper.
COOK GOES PAST MAHELA, CHANDERPAUL AND LARA IN ONE INNINGS
The left-hander was enduring the worst patch in his 151-Test career having not breached the 50-run mark in his last 10 innings coming into Melbourne. With his one mammoth innings however, the 33-year-old went past three greats in Mahela Jayawardane, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Brian Lara to climb to sixth position in the all-time Test run-scorer list.
The opening batsman went past Lara in the final over of the day to remind everyone that despite being made to look like a mere mortal in the first three Tests, the orthodox batsman actually resides in the highest echelons of the sport which only a select few can dare to dream of.
Cook moved up to sixth in the all-time Test run-scorers list.
COOK LEAVES MCG MARK
The Melbourne Cricket Ground is one of the most iconic Test venues in the world undoubtedly with its history over the years. Cook’s innings of 244 is now the highest by any visiting batsman at the famous cathedral of sport.
The Essex man broke the record previously held by West Indies legend Viv Richards who had scored 208 runs in 1984.
To put Cook’s feat into context, 111 Test matches have been held at the famous ground since 1877. The opening batsman also holds the record for the highest score by a visiting batsman at the Gabba in Brisbane where he scored an unbeaten 235 in 2010-11.
Cook has etched his name permanently in the history of the MCG.
COOK’S SPECIAL DOUBLE
Cook’s 244, his second double-hundred of the year having registered an unbeaten 243 against the West Indies earlier this year, is the highest score by any Test batsman in 2017. Virat Kohli lies shares the second-highest score with his 243 against Sri Lanka and he, along with Cook, are the only batsmen to have registered more than one double hundred in the calendar year.
It was Cook’s fifth double of his distinguished career so far and his 11th score of 150 plus, the highest by any English batsman. He is the fifth visiting batsman in history to register a double ton at the MCG. Coupled with his 235 at the Gabba, Cook is only the third visiting batsman to register two double hundreds Down Under.
It was a double to savour for the 33-year-old.
EPIC NINTH-WICKET PARTNERSHIP WITH STUART BROAD
England were at 373-8 when Stuart Broad walked in to partner Cook at the crease. The two seniors have come under fire from all quarters for their lacklustre performances in the tour so far and therefore, it is only fitting that they are leading the tourists’ redemption song in this Test.
The pair put on 100 runs exactly for the ninth wicket, the first century-stand at that marker for the English against the Aussies since 1926. Broad registered his second fifty of the year in fighting fashion and dented the hosts’ confidence with their stand.
Cook will now have the opportunity to become the first Englishman to carry the bat in a Test since Mike Atherton in 1997. He could also become the first batsman from either side to carry the bat in an Ashes Test since 1979.
Cook’s 100-run stand with Broad broke Australia’s backs.
COOK ROLLS BACK THE CLOCK WITH HIS COVER-DRIVES
If there has to be a yardstick to judge how well Cook is playing, it should be the frequency with which he employs the cover drives. You know that the opener is on song when he brings out the cover-drives and off-drives from his locker.
The left-hander took a more proactive approach in this innings compared to what we have seen in the previous three Tests and it paid off handsomely. Cook scored 68 runs through the cover region in his unbeaten knock, far higher than he accumulated through any other parts of the ground.
He brought up his double-ton with a classical straight drive. Unflinching with his concentration and doggedness which has become his trademark, it was really pleasing to see Cook roll back the years with his elegant drives through the off-side.
The drives through the off-side flowed from Cook’s bat on Thursday.