Wednesday 25 April 2018

Morgan on song with century as England dominate


Derek Pringle, at Edgbaston

Eoin Morgan soared to a century as an Alastair Cook-inspired England side dominated India at Edgbaston yesterday.

Morgan's hundred was timely, more so from his own perspective than the team's. A fabulous striker of the ball, he has not yet made the No 6 spot his own and had he failed and Ravi Bopara -- playing here in place of Jonathan Trott -- reached three figures instead, he might have been replaced for the Oval.

Poor Bopara, having waited more than four hours with his pads on, he was destined to fall cheaply, which he did, lbw to Amit Mishra for seven.

Cook, meanwhile, took the relationship between occupation of the crease and scoring runs to extremes when he made 294 in just under 13 hours.

Cook's long vigil allowed England to post a mammoth 710-7, their highest innings score in a Test since 1938.

It also meant he lasted 543 balls longer than Virender Sehwag, who, for the second time in the match, was out to the first ball he faced, the first king pair (successive first-ball ducks) of his career.

Sehwag is Cook's polar opposite as an opening bat, being bold and audacious, but on this occasion, as so often, the tortoise eclipsed the hare by some margin.

India did not suffer further losses before the close, but they face a climb up Mount Improbable to even make the game run beyond today, given the forecast is for cloud, but not rain.

England declared when Cook fell playing a rare forcing shot off Ishant Sharma to deep backward point.

His assault on Graham Gooch's 333 was always likely to prove difficult, not because he does not have the capacity (he is very greedy when it comes to run-making), but because of the time he would have needed to make such a huge score.

Ambition is usually a fine attribute for a sportsman to have, but while the sheer monolithic nature of Cook's innings, with its determination, can only be admired, he overdid the single-mindedness to the point where his batting had all the dynamism of a long-term prisoner ticking off the days until his release.

India, unsurprisingly given England started the day 232 runs ahead, set defensive fields, but after striking a four off the last ball of the day's opening over, Cook had added just two more boundaries in the 179 balls he had faced by tea.

In another era, and given England were not saving the match but bossing it, a gallant team-mate would surely have run him out, something Ian Botham is alleged to have done to Geoff Boycott in a Test against New Zealand.

Of course, that was a nip-and-tuck run chase rather than a stroll down a one-way street, which made Cook's lack of risk-taking seem almost comical.

His long vigil did have one effect: it sent statisticians into a frenzy of page-turning among the record books.

This was England's highest total in a non-timeless Test, their best against India and the highest at Edgbaston, while Cook's innings was the longest at the ground in any form of the game.

Indeed, it was only 31 minutes from becoming the longest innings by an England player ever, Len Hutton's 364 at the Oval in 1938 taking 797 minutes.

While such a cornucopia of achievement brought cheers from the crowd there were boos too, not for Cook's sluggishness, but for the umpires, who took the players off three times for bad light, the longest spell being 16 minutes.

As they are the sole arbiters of what light level is fit for play (the ICC playing conditions say it must be unreasonable or dangerous for play to be stopped), we must trust their measurements. Yet there is also a law that says common sense must be applied at all times and with England's batsmen keen to continue their slow python-like asphyxiation of India, you have to wonder who was in any danger.

As well as Cook's slow heroics and Morgan's fine century, Tim Bresnan joined the party with a 50. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

England v India, Day 4,

Live, Sky Sports 1, 11.0

Irish Independent

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