Century continues Cook's fine England start

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The Independent Online

Alastair Cook maintained his stunning start to his Test career with his third England century to put them in command of the second npower Test against Pakistan.

The Essex left-hander, playing only his seventh Test, hit a superb 127 to help England establish a major first innings lead despite a mini slump on the second day at Old Trafford.

Resuming already 49 runs ahead on 168 for two, Cook overcame the loss of Kevin Pietersen in the first over to help England extend their lead to 238 runs by reaching a commanding 357 for seven at tea.

Cook hit 18 boundaries during his innings spanning over five hours at the crease after the tourists bounced back strongly by dismissing Pietersen with the third legitimate ball of the day.

Unbeaten on 38 off 49 balls overnight, Pietersen attempted to force the pace by trying to drive seamer Umar Gul from outside off-stump but was instead caught brilliantly above his head by Imran Farhat at gully.

But Cook took control of a potentially tricky situation and showed the composure which enabled him to claim a century on debut against India in Nagpur during the winter and against Pakistan during the drawn opening Test at Lord's.

He remained cautious during the early stages alongside new batsman Paul Collingwood as England attempted to consolidate, but the home side broke free just before lunch.

Collingwood showed the aggressive intent first by stepping down the wicket to plant leg-spinner Danish Kaneria over long-on for six.

That shot brought up the 50 partnership off only 124 balls and also took England into a 100-run lead and seemed to spur on Cook, who promptly hit all-rounder Abdul Razzaq for 12 in the next over to move into the 90's.

Cook struggled with leg-spinner Shahid Afridi, but finally broke free of the shackles to push a two down to third man and celebrate his second century in successive Tests.

Collingwood, dropped at short leg by Younis Khan on 39, fell just two short of his half-century when he pulled seamer Gul straight to square leg to bring an end to England's productive 119-run fourth-wicket partnership.

His dismissal sparked a mini collapse with four wickets falling in the next 24 overs with Cook's superb innings ending 12 overs later to a contentious umpiring decision.

Pushing half-forward to Gul, Cook appeared unfortunate to be given out leg before by umpire Steve Bucknor to a ball which television replays suggested was just too high.

His demise was followed quickly by out-of-form wicketkeeper Geraint Jones, who had scored just one half-century in his previous 14 Test innings leading into this match.

Jones was hit twice on his right hand during his 17-minute innings and hooked seamer Mohammad Sami for six, but then attempted to pull a full-length delivery and was give leg before to the same bowler for eight.

England later confirmed Jones was having ice treatment after bruising the ring finger on his right hand before deciding on whether he needed an x-ray.

The slump continued with Sajid Mahmood falling in the over before tea by spooning up a return catch to seamer Abdul Razzaq.