Cook provides bright spot as England struggle

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The Independent Online

England ended Andrew Flintoff's first day as captain grateful to debutant Alastair Cook's determined half-century.

A polished 60 from Cook and significant contributions from Flintoff himself and Paul Collingwood helped the tourists to 246 for seven by the close.

They would have hoped for something better after winning the toss at the VCA ground but loose strokes undermined their cause.

Flintoff appeared to relish the extra responsibility of captaincy, shaking off his poor form thus far on the tour with glimpses of his best.

The 28-year-old exuded confidence at the crease before being trapped leg before wicket by wrist spinner Anil Kumble.

Since arriving here over a fortnight ago Flintoff appeared out of sorts with the bat but he eased to 43 during a valuable half-century stand with Collingwood, whose unbeaten 53 spanned three and a half hours.

Flintoff walked to the crease with his side 136 for four, after the fall of debutant Cook, and began timing the ball supremely in contrast to his innings in the warm-up matches here.

The tourists were in need of such guidance after Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen all fell within the first half of the opening day.

Twenty-one-year-old Cook, who only arrived on the sub-continent on Sunday having been summoned from the England A team in the Caribbean, spent the best part of two sessions at the crease before inside-edging a drive at left-armer Irfan Pathan into his stumps.

Cook, who shared a half-century stand with opening partner Strauss, displayed tremendous patience to bring up his 50, from 113 deliveries, with a leg-glanced single off Harbhajan Singh.

He had seen two wickets lost before lunch as Strauss chased a wide delivery from Sri Sreesanth for VVS Laxman to hold a fine catch at second slip.

Bell's demise also came from an edge as Rahul Dravid's juggled catch provided off spinner Harbhajan Singh with a success.

India's debutant Sreesanth then claimed the scalp of Pietersen, who chopped an attempted pull on to leg stump.

Given the misfortune of the past week, which resulted in captain Michael Vaughan and senior men Marcus Trescothick and Simon Jones departing the tour, England were due a change of luck.

Collingwood remained firm in his now customary unflappable manner, failing to be distracted by the dismissals of Geraint Jones and new boy Ian Blackwell to Pathan's late evening spell.

Having dropped anchor alongside Flintoff, he attacked Kumble to reach his half-century, turning a full toss for four through the leg side and using his feet next ball to clear the boundary at midwicket to get to his 50 in style.

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