Run machine Cook hits epic 294 to leave India reeling

India&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;224 &amp; 35-1</p><p></p><p>England&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;710-7 dec. By Stephen Brenkley at Edgbaston
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The Independent Online

England       710-7 dec. By Stephen Brenkley at Edgbaston

Alastair Cook went on and on yesterday. For most of the time he looked as if he would go on some more, all the way until England was once again a green and pleasant land.

But that might never happen and after he had batted for almost 13 hours he was undone by tiredness and urgency, aware there were a match and series to be won. Six runs short of an epic triple century, he was out. England immediately declared amid a torrent of statistics.

India must have been reeling from them. All too soon, facing a first-innings deficit of 486, they were in deeper trouble. Virender Sehwag, their richly gifted and spectacular opener, was out first ball for the second time in the match. What an unfair game it seemed: one side's opener had made 294, the other's had made a king pair. India avoided further loss but they still have two days to bat and are 451 behind.

Cook's monumental innings was the highest score by an England batsman since 1990 when Graham Gooch made 333, also against India, and the sixth highest in all. But as he trooped off, having chased a wide one which was caught at point, Cook seemed momentarily downcast rather than elated.

England's total of 710 for 7 declared was their third highest and their highest since 1938, when they made 903 for 7 in a timeless Test against Australia. The immense first-innings lead was also their third largest.

There was little that was artistic or creative about Cook's innings but it was a testament to concentration and craftsmanship of the very highest order. In any innings that endures for any length of time, especially one that starts against a new ball and then has to contend with another two, there are bound to be brittle moments. But he did not offer a chance.

He faced 545 balls and struck 33 fours. If there is a criticism it is of the mildest kind. Cook might have tried to accelerate in the afternoon when India had long since wilted (actually, they had wilted by about lunchtime at Lord's on the second day of the first Test).

After tea Cook recognised that all of England wanted him to reach the 300 landmark but also needed to have India batting for a second time before close of play. He had virtually dashed into the 290s and hardly put a foot wrong when Ishant Sharma propelled a ball from wide of the crease which was well outside off stump. Cook reached for it and saw it spoon in the air towards point where Suresh Raina ran in and held the dipping catch.

Ten minutes later, Gautam Gambhir took three runs off the first ball of Jimmy Anderson's first over. It brought Sehwag on strike. He was lured into following an outswinger which he edged to first slip. Two balls in his comeback Test match, scores of 0 and 0. Now that was disappointment.