Cook the vital ingredient as England struggle into final day

Mon, Nov 19, 2012, 00:00

Alastair Cook's historic century took England's struggle to save the first Test into an unexpected final day.

Cook (168 not out) became the only batsman to make a hundred in his first three Tests as captain, his previous successes as Andrew Strauss's deputy in Bangladesh 2½ years ago before his permanent appointment for this four-match series.

He would doubtless swap any personal glory for a feat of collective escapology against India, after England conceded a first-innings deficit of 330.

Following his unbroken sixth-wicket stand of 141 with Matt Prior (84no), there were some who dared to believe the improbable might just be possible after all too.

Despite Cook's heroics, wickets began to fall at the other end on day four - twice in pairs, first for the addition of only four runs and then none when Umesh Yadav put himself on a hat-trick.

But in the doughty Prior, the captain finally found the lasting support he so badly needed and deserved as his near 8½-hour triumph of technique and determination on a surface increasingly favouring spin underpinned a stumps total of 340 for five which sneaked England into a lead of 10.