Cook cringes at comparisons as he hits ton of his own

Sri Lanka Board XI 169 England XI 303-8

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The Independent Online

Alastair Cook will remember forever the hundred he scored yesterday. It was the 46th of his career in all forms of the game and there was nothing particularly fancy or distinguished about it.

It's That Man Again was simply doing what he does best, concentrating, shrewdly playing the percentages and operating within his limitations, scoring more runs for England, preparing properly for the Test series. In any other circumstances, it might slip into the file marked "other centuries".

But this was the day when Sachin Tendulkar amassed his 100th international hundred, 370 days and 35 innings since the 99th. The long, almost embarrassing wait was over and the most deified player in the history of the sport had reached a singular landmark.

It was thus a memorable day to score a hundred yourself. It is also a statistical and chronological curiosity that Cook has been compared to Tendulkar almost as long as he has been playing for England, though parallels may not be immediately obvious. Cook was more than four years older than Tendulkar when he started his Test career and although he may turn a few heads in Chelmsford high street he is able to leave his home without the certainty that he will be mobbed.

But since he scored a century in his maiden Test, something that Tendulkar did not do, Cook has kept reaching landmarks just after the age that Tendulkar reached them, being second to 4,000, 5,000 and 6,000 Test runs and in the number of Test hundreds scored before turning 27. It is inescapable to the self-respecting statto, if faintly ridiculous.

"It embarrasses me a bit to be honest," said Cook after he finished on 163 not out yesterday, which took him 293 balls. The innings included only 11 fours, though he was denied value for his shots by the over-grassed outfield. "I haven't got the words really to describe what he [Tendulkar] has done as a player and as a man under that kind of constant pressure. But it's phenomenal." Phenomenal will do nicely.

Given his handsome tribute, Cook will probably not mind that in the latter stage of his innings the paid observers at the R Premadasa Stadium were trying to follow events in Dhaka via text or internet. Tendulkar reached his hundred with a single to square leg, Cook his with a three clipped to mid-wicket.

England were indebted once again to Cook's occupation. Nobody else made a half century; Andrew Strauss, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen all wasted promising starts. If some of the lbw decisions that did for them did not look as plum as plum can be, the menace of spin, to which they all succumbed, reared its pretty little head again. Worryingly, Ian Bell was bowled by the second ball he faced, from the off spin of Sachithra Serasinghe, a name but not necessarily an off-spinner to conjure with.

England lost four middle-order wickets for 11 runs before a ninth-wicket stand of 53 between Cook and Jimmy Anderson helped increase their lead to a margin where another pre-Test victory of the type that they have made a good habit lately, is definitely possible.

Scoreboard Colombo

COLOMBO (Day 2 of 3): England XI are leading Sri Lanka Board XI by 134 runs with 2 first-innings wickets in hand

Sri Lanka Board XI won toss

SRI LANKA BOARD XI - First Innings 169 (W A A M Silva 66, Panesar 5-37, Anderson 4-19)

ENGLAND XI - First Innings

Overnight 6-0

Runs 6s 4s Bls Min

*A J Strauss lbw b Perera 40 0 6 106 135

A N Cook not out 163 0 11 293 372

I J L Trott lbw b Bandara 16 0 0 35 26

K P Pietersen lbw b Serasinghe 39 0 5 59 80

I R Bell b Serasinghe 0 0 0 2 0

R S Bopara lbw b Perera 12 0 0 55 82

†M J Prior c Jayawardene b Alvitigala 0 0 0 3 1

G P Swann c Karunaratne b Bandara 7 0 1 6 2

S T Finn lbw b Bandara 0 0 0 4 0

J M Anderson not out 12 0 0 38 34

Extras (lb6 w7 nb1) 14

Total (for 8, 100 overs) 303

Fall: 1-89, 2-119, 3-188, 4-188, 5-236, 6-237, 7-245, 8-247.

To bat: M S Panesar.

Bowling: M D K Perera 25-2-84-2, S P S C Serasinghe 13-2-24-2, T P Gamage 12-2-24-0, W G H N Premaratne 13-0-57-0, K G Alvitigala 13-1-50-1, H M C M Bandara 24-4-58-3.

Umpires: R A Kottahachchi and R R Wimalasiri.