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Alastair Cook played the anchor’s role as he calmly guided his team past the deficit PTI

Ahmedabad: Nov 18, 2012

Alastair Cook produced a monumental innings of 168 not out, and Matt Prior (84 not out) supported his captain superbly as England wiped off their deficit to reach 340 for five at Stumps on Day Four of the first Test at Motera after being asked to follow on.

Cook, the Marathon Man of English cricket, scored his 21st Test ton and played the role of an anchor to perfection while Prior did majority of the scoring in their 141-run stand. The wicket-keeper batsman scored 84 runs in the partnership.

Cook literally never broke a sweat as he batted through the day in Ahmedabad s dry heat and drove England past their deficit. He has now batted for 75 overs over the course of the two innings and given England a snowflake s chance in hell of saving this match. More importantly, he’s given his team the confidence to score runs against the Indian tweakers on slow turners. Even if England do go on to lose this match, they ll go out with the belief that they can rectify things in this series if, perhaps, they get the chance to bat first and put the runs on the board.

Cook showed admirable temperament in building his innings of 168 off 341 balls, including 20 boundaries. He was patient with his shot-selection, playing with soft hands off his more educated backfoot, and punished any loose deliveries to the fence.

Both batsmen scored at a strike-rate of around 50 to slowly inch towards India s huge total of 521 for eight. Then, with half-an-hour left to go in the day’s play, Prior almost poetically caressed an Ojha delivery to the cover boundary to level the scores. A ball later, he exquisitely cut him for four more to take the lead.

The Indian bowlers, who had picked up three wickets in the first session and two in the second, were unable to unsettle the English captain-keeper duo in the third. England, who were asked to follow on after succumbing to a 330-run deficit in the first innings, will go into the fifth day tomorrow with their noses psychologically ahead after not many would ve expected India to bat again in the match.

Earlier in the second session, Cook and Prior, who had the two highest scores for England in their first-innings collapse, came to the visitors’ rescue once more as their team took Tea at 264 for five, still trailing India by 66 runs.

Pacer Umesh Yadav, who had so far been a silent spectator as the spinners picked up the wickets, finally had his day as he scalped Ian Bell (22) and Samit Patel (0) in back-to-back deliveries. Both fell in similar fashion, leg-before to Yadav s balls inching down leg-side, but good enough for umpire Tony Hill to think they would have clipped leg-stump.

Patel s dismissal was even more doubtful; replays showed that it even nicked the bat s edge before hitting the pad.

India would have felt they deserved their bit of luck, after a few decisions went against them on Day Three. The DRS debate was back on, as England lost half their side still trailing by 130 runs.

In the first session, Cook scored his 21st Test century and held fort to take England to 182 for three at Lunch, while Pragyan Ojha began his journey through the English batting order.

After resuming his innings on 74 not out, Cook drove and cut the Indian spinners to become the first Test captain to score a century in his first three matches as skipper. The 27-year-old now has 21 Test hundreds; only Sachin Tendulkar, with 25 tons, had more at this age.

His overnight partner, Nick Compton (37), was the first to go. Zaheer Khan trapped the right-handed opener in front after adding just three runs to his total.

Ojha, who picked up a fifer in the first innings but had had no luck so far in the second, then switched ends and seemingly also switched on, catching Jonathan Trott s (17) outside edge. MS Dhoni took a sharp catch behind the sticks and retributed for his missed stumping earlier on. The Indians had their first breakthrough at 123 for one.

Out came Kevin Pietersen (2), for a second go at the Indian bowlers after a disappointing first innings. But the comeback man was to fall for the 25th time in his Test career to a left-arm spinner as Ojha bowled him around the legs. It was a rash shot to play given the circumstances, as Pietersen tried to to sweep Ojha playing inside the line, and paid the price.

Bell was next in, and he didn t commit hara kiri first ball this time around. He kept Cook company for the 40 minutes left before the lunch break and prolonged India’s wait for that coveted victory.

Brief Scores: India 521 for 8 dec. (Cheteshwar Pujara 206*, Virender Sehwag 117; Graeme Swann 5 for 144) trail England 191 (Matt Prior 48, Alastair Cook 41; Pragyan Ojha 5 for 45, R Ashwin 3 for 80) and 340 for 5 (Alastair Cook 168*, Matt Prior 84*; Umesh Yadav 2 for 60, Pragyan Ojha 2 for 102) by 10 runs.

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