Alastair Cook
Alastair Cook

London — Alastair Cook could not have scripted a sweeter end to his long and illustrious Test career — going out on a high with a memorable 147 as a smitten Oval crowd bade farewell.

Cook, who scored 71 in the first innings of the fifth Test against India, was dismissed about 40 minutes before tea on Monday as England took an iron grip on the match.

England declared on 423/8, setting India 464 for victory, but the tourists lost their first three wickets for two runs with James Anderson removing Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara lbw in his second over.

When Stuart Broad removed Indian run machine Virat Kohli for a golden duck India were in disarray.

Anderson, 36, needs one more wicket to surpass the 563 of Australia’s Glenn McGrath and become the most successful fast bowler in Test history.

However it was Cook’s day and the Indian players applauded as he made his way to the dressingroom for the final time and the crowd rose to their feet in honour of the record-breaking former skipper.

Cook acknowledged the prolonged applause, turning one last time to soak up the atmosphere before disappearing from sight.

The opener, who shared a third-wicket stand of 259 with his successor as captain Joe Root, holds a clutch of England records: most England Test appearances (161), most runs (12,472) and most centuries (33).

Following a disappointing year, Cook’s late flurry has left him with an impressive career average of 45.35.

In a match that has turned into a long farewell for the Essex opener, peppered with standing ovations, the crowd got what they desperately wanted shortly before lunch when Cook reached three figures in bizarre fashion. The batsman, on 96, scored a single and then celebrated as Jasprit Bumrah’s throw flashed across the ground and over the boundary rope for four overthrows.

As cheers rang out around the London ground, a smiling Cook removed his helmet and raised his arms, hugging Root.

He had to work hard for his runs on Sunday evening but looked more fluent in the morning sunshine on Monday, with his hundred containing eight boundaries.

For good measure, he leapfrogged Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara to fifth on the all-time list of Test run-scorers, becoming the most prolific left-hander in history.

The crowd has been on its feet multiple times during the match, aware they were witnessing the final chapter of Cook’s storied England career.

The batsman, 33, who scored a hundred on his Test debut, has scored more than 3,500 runs than the next Englishmen on the all-time list, Graham Gooch.

Cook caught the eye in 2005 when he scored a double hundred for his county side against Australia.

He was also a key factor in England’s 2010-2011 Ashes triumph, the team’s only series victory in Australia in the past three decades, with a mammoth 766 runs.

Cook became England’s full-time captain in 2012 and led his country in a record 59 matches.

An accumulator rather than a dashing stroke-player, he led from the front in superb fashion when scoring three hundreds to inspire England to a rare series win in India, in 2012, as well as skippering the side to home Ashes series victories in 2013 and 2015.

AFP

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