Cook back in form as England dominate

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The Independent Online

Alastair Cook rediscovered his prolific run-scoring knack to take his burgeoning Test century tally to 19 as England established total dominance over India at Edgbaston.

Cook (182 not out) went above three notables in David Gower, Michael Vaughan and Kevin Pietersen in England's all-time list of centurions, and now trails only five of his countrymen, after day two of the third npower Test.



He is level with two more - Len Hutton and his own captain Andrew Strauss, with whom he shared an opening stand of 186 in a stumps total of 456 for three as the hosts approach their last lap in pursuit of number one spot in the International Cricket Council's Test rankings.



Cook's hearty share has so far brought him 26 fours from 339 balls, in a chanceless eight-hour stay which has underpinned England's resounding reply to the tourists' first-day 224 all out.



The apparently unstoppable run of form which took hold in last winter's Ashes suddenly deserted him as he mustered only 20 runs from four innings in the first two matches of a series England nonetheless already lead 2-0.



But he made no mistake here, registering his seventh century in his last 13 Tests since The Oval just under a year ago.



Cook's batting, as so often, was a triumph of patience and unerring shot selection as he allowed a succession of partners to outscore him yet ended up outlasting the lot.



He grew in authority against an India attack who tried all they knew but drew a blank as he first defended stoically and then gradually began to unfurl his favourite shots - principally cut, pull and the occasional cover-drive.



He and Strauss (87) began this morning on 84 and added more than a hundred following a rain-delayed start until the captain was controversially dismissed during an extended afternoon session.



Victory will take England above these opponents to the top of that ICC table, and they may well need to bat only once to achieve the long-held ambition.



Their openers were in no hurry today, on the way to a first century stand in 10 attempts since last Christmas at Melbourne. There was a hint of swing throughout Praveen Kumar's morning spell of 7-5-2-0 from the pavilion end, but he drew no false shots.



It took until the 15th over of the day for Strauss to count England's first boundary, chasing a wide ball from Ishant Sharma and edging down to third man.



But no-one in the home crowd was complaining as it became evident England were sealing an advantage from which victory, a series-clinching lead and world-beating status are the obvious consequences.



Cook and Strauss were beginning to threaten several of their own partnership records when the captain was bowled round his pads, sweeping at leg-spinner Amit Mishra.



Television replays demonstrated only after Strauss had been replaced by Ian Bell that umpire Simon Taufel had missed a Mishra over-step and therefore failed to call a no-ball.



Bell, still wearing a black armband on his home ground following the recent death of his coach and mentor Neal Abberley, was intent on attack from the outset.



He dominated a 50 stand with Cook but was unable to make the most of a routine drop by Rahul Dravid at first slip off Shantha Sreesanth.



Instead, one ball after Cook had completed his century with a single into the leg-side off Kumar, Bell fell to his own first delivery from the swing bowler.



It was a very good one too, reminiscent of Tim Bresnan's success against Dravid yesterday, holding its line after offering to swing in and beating Bell's forward-defence to knock out off-stump.



Cook was therefore joined by another adventurous partner in Pietersen (63), who took it upon himself to bully a tiring attack either side of tea.



Pietersen clubbed Mishra back over his head for an early six and raced past his 50 with seven fours from only 53 balls.



He seemed greedy for plenty more, and looked astounded when umpire Steve Davis gave him out lbw to Kumar.



Pietersen works on the basis his huge stride, often outside the line, takes lbw out of the equation - but replays showed he was hit just in front by a delivery which would have gone on to hit the top of off-stump.



His personal disappointment was an irrelevance to the bigger picture anyway as Eoin Morgan joined Cook - and India's torment continued in another unbroken half-century stand.



The hapless tourists had lost the ability to help themselves, it seemed too, as first Sreesanth and then Dravid badly dropped Morgan on 17 and 43.

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