Having announced his decision to retire from international cricket following the culmination of the Test, the spotlight was on Alastair Cook as the England opener prepared to bid a final goodbye.
The packed Oval crowd got its money’s worth with England skipper Joe Root electing to bat first after winning the toss. Cook did not disappoint as he made a fine 71.
Here, we take a closer look at what could be Cook’s penultimate innings in Test cricket.
BALLS FACED: 190
It was almost as if fate had conspired to ensure a fitting finale for Cook in England colours. On a surface which was much slower compared to the ones previously in the series, an out-of-form Cook brought out his famed powers of concentration in a circumspect innings which frustrated the Indian bowlers. Much more confident and assured outside the off-stump, the England opener played to his strengths as he crawled towards a 57th Test half-century. It was not the most fluent of Cook’s innings but it was one which served as a reminder of his abilities to absorb pressure.
Having perished outside the off-stump for most of the series, Cook was much more watchful around the area. His defence and awareness of his off-stump were on point as he forced the bowlers to ultimately bowl to his strengths. Frustrating the Indian pacers with his risk-free approach outside the off-stump, Cook profited immensely whenever they strayed on to his pads. He collected most of runs flicking through the fine-leg region and even brought out his trademark cover drive – a sign of his confidence given how rarely he uses the stroke.
While Cook did hold up one end nicely for England, his inability to up the scoring-rate would ultimately prove costly for the hosts who lost a flurry of wickets following the opener’s dismissal. While he did guard against most of his deficiencies outside the off-stump, there was a momentary lapse of concentration while he was batting on 37. Ishant Sharma, Cook’s nemesis for much of the series, had the opener in all sorts of trouble after lunch and even induced an outside edge off his bat which Ajinkya Rahane put down in the slip cordon.
VERDICT – 7/10
While it is unfortunate that it has taken so long for England’s all-time leading run-scorer to come to the party in his final series, Cook’s innings on Friday will serve as a reminder to the hosts of what they will be missing. Playing with a steely determination that has for long been his forte, Cook showed the Test purists the virtue of patience in a carefully crafted innings. He will be disappointed to miss out on a farewell ton but given the way England’s batting collapsed following his dismissal, his 71-run knock might well be worth its weight in gold.
Having sealed the series win after taking an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match series, hosts England were the ones who batted first at the Oval after skipper Joe Root won the toss.
In Alastair Cook‘s final Test in the England whites, the hosts were reduced to 198-7 before stumps were drawn on day one.
Here, we look at the key talking points from an eventful first day at the Oval.
KOHLI’S TOSS WOES CONTINUE
If there was one thing Virat Kohli would have hoped to change desperately coming into the final Test, it was his luck with the coin tosses in the series.
With variable conditions playing a big part in the final outcome of Test matches these days, there was plenty riding on the toss once again at the Oval. Luck had deserted the India skipper so far in all four previous coin tosses in the series. Four times Kohli had called heads, four times he had lost the toss.
On Friday, he once again opted to go with the call of heads and saw himself lose his fifth toss in succession. England skipper Joe Root had no hesitation in electing to bat first on a much slower surface while Kohli was left to rue his luck. Such was Kohli’s haplessness that he said: “I need a coin with heads on both sides.”
Maybe next time go for tails, Virat?
You got to feel for Virat Kohli. A tough 5-Test series in England and he loses the toss in all 5— Shekhar Gupta (@ShekharGupta) September 7, 2018
COOK SURVIVES TREACHEROUS SECOND SESSION TO REGISTER FIFTY
After a circumspect opening session for England which saw them amass 68 runs for the loss of Keaton Jennings’ wicket by lunch, India’s bowlers had their task cut out in the second session.
With the side in desperate need of a breakthrough post lunch, the Indian pacers came out firing on all cylinders. Mohammed Shami came agonisingly close to finding Alastair Cook’s outside edge on three occasions in an over before Jasprit Bumrah finally got one to connect off the bat and fly towards the slips. Unfortunately for the India pacer, Ajinkya Rahane grassed a straightforward chance to allow Cook a reprieve while batting on 37.
At the other end, Moeen Ali too was living dangerously with Kohli putting down a tough chance in the slips.
The two Englishmen survived a testing period before Cook went on to notch up his 57th half-century. It was a poetic touch to the batsman’s farewell given he had marked his Test debut innings with a fifty too against the same opposition.
INDIA’S PACERS COME ALIVE AFTER TEA
After a frantic second session where they were extremely unlucky to end up without a wicket, India finally found the much needed breakthrough early into the final session. Cook’s penultimate innings was brought to an end by Bumrah ultimately after the Indian pacer got the Englishman to play on to his stumps. Three deliveries later, it was England skipper Root making the long walk back to the pavilion after being trapped on the pads by an inswinging Bumrah delivery.
Root’s optimistic review proved to be futile as Jonny Bairstow made his way to the crease to join Ali. While his wish to reclaim the wicketkeeping gloves might have been granted, there was no change in Bairstow’s fortunes as he fell for another duck while attempting to drive at a wide Ishant Sharma delivery. Bairstow’s dismissal was his third duck in four innings and the fifth time he had been dismissed in the last 22 balls he has faced in the series.
That wasn’t the end of the England procession with Ben Stokes, Ali and Sam Curran falling soon after as the hosts went from 133-1 to 181-7. Ishant Sharma (3-28) and Bumrah (2-41) were the protagonists of India’s fightback with the ball.
The New Zealander resigned from his position as the head coach of Scotland to take up the three-year stint in the Pakistan setup.
The 52-year-old’s resignation brought an end to his four-year stint with the Scotland men’s team which saw them qualify for the World Twenty20 in India during 2016 while also achieving a historic win in an ODI against England at Edinburgh this year.
He will take over from Steve Rixon and will start his tenure with the upcoming Asia Cup in the UAE.
“It is a great honour to be joining Pakistan cricket team and their high-quality coaching staff. I have seen the progress that has been made under Mickey Arthur and the opportunity to work with a leading full member team on the rise in world cricket, is a real privilege,” Bradburn said on his appointment.
“Against Scotland in June, we saw the impressive changes that have been instilled, noticeably with the physical stature and fielding abilities of Pakistan’s players. I look forward to adding my experience to the players and staff, while being an integral part of the exciting and dominant team, Team Pakistan is becoming,” he added.
Earlier, Australia’s Darren Berry had been in negotiations with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for the fielding coach role but he pulled out citing personal and professional commitments.