'You have to look at the runs I did score rather than the six I didn't'


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The Independent Online

Alastair Cook last night came up with a variation on the theme that cricket can be a funny old game. "It's mad how you can be disappointed after scoring 294 – only cricket can do that," he said.

Cook was given a standing ovation after his marathon innings, had his hand shaken by just about every Indian player and was then invited to lead England off the field at the end of another highly satisfactory day's play for the home team.

"Yes, there was a tinge of disappointment at not making 300 but realistically I'm thrilled to have got a really big score," said the Essex opener. "You have to look at it in terms of the 294 runs I did score rather than six I didn't get."

No one would have been more pleased for Cook, or proud of the 26-year-old's efforts, than England's batting coach, Graham Gooch. Back in 1990, Gooch scored 333 against India, at Lord's, and he never tires of telling those who have followed him into the side to make the most of every opportunity. "He's quite happy, I think," said Cook. "And I'm sure he will be throwing balls down to me again in the morning, as usual."

Cook knew the score in terms of what his captain, Andrew Strauss, had in mind. "We wanted 10 overs at India before close of play with a lead of about 500," said the vice-captain. In the event, with Cook's innings ending with a catch to deep backward point, England had a dozen overs at the visitors but needed only a single ball to get rid of Virender Sehwag.

"Basically, we wanted to bat for as long as we could," said Cook, asked to explain England's thinking when play began yesterday morning. "Sometimes you have to grind it out in Test cricket. It was hard to score quickly with defensive fields being set and an old ball. Even Morgs [the usually free-flowing Eoin Morgan] struggled."

Some thought England overdid the "grind" and should have stamped on the accelerator, even if that meant losing wickets. But there were no complaints in the home dressing room.

"Generally, I think we score quite quickly as a side in Test cricket," said Cook. "We have a good balance. The top three try to lay a platform and Nos 4, 5 and 6, and 7, 8 and 9, look to dominate. If you can put miles in the bowlers' legs then it becomes easier and easier."

Cook's run-making is one thing but his fitness levels are equally impressive because, even with 300 looming and having spent the thick end of 13 hours at the crease, he looked capable of batting on and on.

"That's why you do the fitness work," said Cook. "The mental concentration to bat for long periods is something you pick up over time. I am now getting bigger hundreds than I use to and, as a team. I think we have made six double hundreds since 2010. The Gooch ethos of never having scored enough has rubbed off on everyone."

It was not a day of batting delight for everyone, though. Sehwag's king pair seemed to sum up India's misery while Ravi Bopara, desperate to cash in on his return to the home side, also missed out.

There had to be one final question for Cook, though: is there anything else you would rather spend nearly 13 hours doing? "I don't know how to answer that question," said England's star man with a bashful grin. So he didn't.