Saturday 17 March 2018

Cricket: Sublime Cook hits 20th Test century as England secure early advantage

Alastair Cook scored his 20th Test century as England edged day one of the first Test against South Africa to finish on 267 for three at the close at The Oval yesterday.

Cook finished on 114 not out, with his chanceless effort coming after he lost captain and opening partner Andrew Strauss to the fourth ball of the morning, before enjoying impressive second-wicket stand of 170 with Jonathan Trott, who made 71.

South Africa fought back late on with the dismissal of Kevin Pietersen (42) in the last hour after he gloved a short Jacques Kallis ball to wicketkeeper AB de Villiers, who was playing instead of the retired Mark Boucher. Ian Bell was 10 not out.

Strauss went lbw to Morne Morkel for a duck, though what could have been a series-defining early strike, was cancelled out by Cook and Trott, who eventually edged Morkel to de Villiers. Morkel had figures of two for 44 at stumps.

Left-hander Cook drew level on 20 Test hundreds with his mentor and former England captain Graham Gooch, as well as a clutch of distinguished batsmen such as Ken Barrington, Younus Khan, Pietersen, Mark Waugh and Aravinda de Silva.

Strauss departed after an initial 'not out' decision by umpire Steve Davis was overturned following a Proteas review, which revealed the ball would have struck the top of middle stump.

Morkel had to wait another 56.4 overs before adding Trott, who played an uncharacteristically loose drive outside off stump. Nevertheless, it was another imposing stand to follow the 329 and 251 that Trott and Cook had shared previously.

Cook reached his half-century with a slapped pull shot off leg-spinner Imran Tahir over midwicket for four when the bowler dropped short.

Trott's 50 came up with possibly the best shot of the day, and certainly the most elegant, when he effortlessly pushed a Dale Steyn ball through extra cover for four.

England v South Africa,

Live, Sky Sports 1, 11.0

Irish Independent

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