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.
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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. This was not a batting strip of the shirtfront variety but, although Cook might have played and missed a time or two, 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, on reflection, they had wilted by about lunchtime at Lord's on the second day of the first Test).
True, the fields were strictly defensive by then with four or four five men lining the boundary, but Cook remained content to accumulate resolutely, intent on doing nothing rash. Nobody expects him to be the Great Entertainer, doing the batting equivalent of singing while dancing on tables, but he might burst into a ditty occasionally. By tea he had faced 179 balls of the third day and added 84 runs. It was perhaps old-fashioned Test cricket by an old-fashioned Test cricketer.
This was the statistical zenith of a remarkable sequence of scores by Cook. A year ago he saved his career at The Oval by making a hundred against Pakistan. Had he not done so, it is perfectly possible that he would have been dropped. Having done so, he has become a run machine and crease occupier par excellence.
During the winter's Ashes series he scored 766 runs, including three hundreds, and batted for 34 hours. Far from sated he has scored another three hundreds this summer in six Test matches so far. He is 26. Any and all England batting records are open to him.
Cook's endeavours all but consumed all others. But what eventually swept India away was his fourth-wicket partnership of 222 with Eoin Morgan, who made his second Test hundred. Morgan was never at his most fluent but it is a blessing of his, as of all outstanding batsmen, that he does not let such matters concern him.
He was dropped for the third time when he was on 95 and his dismissal led to what these days for England amounts to a clatter of wickets. Ravi Bopara, having waited two years for his Test career to be resumed then had to wait two days for a bat.
It was all over in 10 minutes, Bopara leg before propping forward to Amit Mishra. It was out, but if there is a batting god he was being as kind to Bopara as he was to Sehwag later. All the favours were being bestowed elsewhere.
Matt Prior perished in the cause of quick runs – he knows no other way, of course, though he might have been surprised to see India taking a good, running catch – before Cook found in Tim Bresnan the partner who would see him safely through to 300.
It was clear by now that this was England's intention and with so much time left in the match it was eminently reasonable. England were interrupted three times during the day, first for a rain shower and then twice for bad light when the floodlights failed temporarily.
The latter two breaks showed cricket at its daftest. Bad light is now entirely in the province of the umpires. Players cannot appeal for it and are discouraged from engaging in discussion about it. When the meter reaches a certain level the officials seemingly decide that play cannot continue.
Understandably, they were booed when they left the first time. England were 563 for 3; the danger did not seem imminent. Soon enough, without any discernible improvement, the umpires relented.
After tea, Bresnan became expansive, and Cook followed his lead. He recognised that all of England wanted him to reach the 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.
Cook was disappointed but it was small fry. 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.
Stats Magic: The numbers that matter from the third day
Despite a forecast for early-morning showers (which duly arrived), 5,000 litres of water were sprinkled on to the Edgbaston outfield overnight to keep the grass green and healthy. It is reckoned that these super-absorbent outfields would need at least three inches of rain in an hour to be overwhelmed.
Rahul Dravid dropped two slip catches during England's first innings – and one of them, when reprieving Eoin Morgan, was an absolute sitter. Surprising? Definitely, since he has held more catches (207) than any other fielder in Test cricket.
The century stand between Alastair Cook and Eoin Morgan was England's ninth three-figure partnership of the series. India had only one before the start of their second innings at Edgbaston.
The pavilion redevelopment of Edgbaston may have cost £32m but it was still the source of the power cut that caused the floodlights to fail and meant play was suspended because of bad light.
Alastair Cook scored the 50th double century by an England player yesterday. It was also thesecond highest score against India, overtaking Geoff Boycott's infamously slow 246 not out at Headingley in '67.
England have now recorded 18 partnerships of 100 or more this summer, easily surpassing the 15 they accumulated in 2004.
It was the eighth time that England had achieved a first- innings lead of above 400 in Tests.Reuse content