Alastair Cook and Stuart Broad    Getty Images
Alastair Cook and Stuart Broad Getty Images

They said Alastair Cook should retire. They said Stuart Broad should be dropped. They said England were physically, mentally, and spiritually down. What they did not say that the warhorses have been there and that they know how to rise above it.

Plot twist

The one who should have hung his boots registered the highest score by an overseas batsman at Melbourne Cricket Ground. The one who should have been benched took 4 for 51 and blasted 56 off 63. The team whose confidence is dented took a lead of 164 runs at stumps on Day Three of the fourth Ashes Test.

Broad narrows his way down to resurgence

Australia made Broad dance to chin music. He shuffled, moved across, ducked, and whatnot to avoid the bouncers. He survived, and Australia lost the vigour to bend their backs. In came Nathan Lyon, and Broad used the same dancing shoes to shimmy down the track and send the ball soaring over the fence. We almost lost the sight of the ball in the backdrop of the colossal MCG. Before Australia knew, Broad narrowed down his way to his 12th Test fifty.

Cook dishes out his best flavour

Sandwiched between the magnificent 243 against West Indies and today’s 244* are 10 innings that comprised a highest score of 37 the driest spell of Cook’s career. But even then, how could we question Cook’s appetite for runs? And for those who did, Cook quenched his thirst by scoring his fifth double-hundred. He is on 244 off 409 balls, and if he carries his bat, it will be the highest score by a batsman to carry the bat. Again, why are we surprised? This is Cook we are talking about. We realise his achievements only when he raises his bat. We are too busy ignoring him while he is collecting runs. Extravagance is too bitter for Cook’s taste.

What underlining about Cook and Broad’s partnership is that they took a mere 111 balls to stitch 100 runs together. Australia had no answer to the counterattack.

Oops!

Australia, however, would have batted by now had Steven Smith not squandered for a second time. He had dropped Cook at first slip yesterday, and he dropped him at square leg today. Cook did not let Australia off the hook otherwise. And you should have seen the straight-drive that Cook painted to reach the double-hundred. Broad celebrated before Cook removed his helmet to acknowledge crowd’s standing ovation.

No wicket in Bird’s nest

Jackson Bird, who replaced the injured Mitchell Starc, went wicketless. Not that he bowled badly but the wicket is unfavourable for any pacer. Lyon ended with three: one of these was Moeen Ali, who became his victim for the sixth time in the series. On a scorching day and on a track where Cook grinded them into the MCG dust, we must credit Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins’ efforts to take three-wicket hauls each.

Brief scores:

Australia 327 (David Warner 103, Steven Smith 76, Shaun Marsh 61; Stuart Broad 4 for 51, James Anderson 3 for 61) trail England 491 for 9 (Alastair Cook 244*, Joe Root 61; Josh Hazlewood 3 for 95, Nathan Lyon for 76, Path Cummins 3 for 117) by 164 runs.

Full scorecard