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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 March 2006, 11:55 GMT
Cook century puts England on top
First Test, Nagpur, day four (close):
England 393 & 297-3; India 323

Alastair Cook
Cook was particularly strong behind square on the off side

Alastair Cook marked his Test debut with a patient century as England built a 367-run lead in Nagpur.

Cook reached his hundred off 236 balls and was 104 not out at the close after he and Kevin Pietersen (87) made India pay for their fielding lapses.

Three catches were dropped during the day as England reached 297-3 after bowling out the home side for 323.

Matthew Hoggard ended India's innings by having Sri Sreesanth lbw to finish with figures of 6-57.

But the manner of Sreesanth's dismissal off the seventh ball of the day's play was an early warning for India that this was not going to be their day.

TV replays showed the ball clip the inside edge of the number 11's bat before striking the pad.

But that did not concern Hoggard, whose figures were his best in a Test since he took 7-61 against South Africa 14 months ago.

England began their reply 70 runs to the good, Cook and Andrew Strauss permitting themselves few liberties as both Irfan Pathan and Sreesanth swung the new ball around.

Kevin took the pressure off me and I could just bat
Alastair Cook

Strauss, in particular, was in no mood to repeat the needless waft outside off stump which cost him his wicket in the first innings, while Cook built solidly on the good impressions made in his 60 on the opening day.

Indian skipper Rahul Dravid quickly turned to his spinners, a shrewd - if predictable - ploy to try to prey on Cook's nerves.

The 21-year-old Essex batsman was given a thorough examination by Kumble, who looped the ball menacingly into the foot marks outside off stump, but stood up to the challenge well.

England's openers survived beyond the lunch interval and took the score to 95 before Strauss, on 46, nibbled at a good one from Pathan and was caught behind.

Ian Bell, who has had a largely anonymous match, had barely enough time to gather his thoughts before he edged an angled delivery from Pathan to Mahendra Dhoni, who claimed his second catch.

Kevin Pietersen
Pietersen's fluent strokeplay delighted the Barmy Army

When Pietersen arrived in the middle, Cook dropped anchor in a supporting role, adding only 18 to his score during the afternoon.

Pietersen played with characteristic freedom but he should have departed on 36 when he chipped the ball straight back to Kumble.

The bowler claimed the catch, but Pietersen stood his ground and, after a prolonged deliberation, was given the benefit of the doubt by the third umpire, presumably on the basis that it was a bump ball.

Indian heads dropped and catches went the same way as Pietersen, on 51, Cook, on 70 and later Paul Collingwood, on four, were all given a helping hand or two by the fielders.

If Sreesanth's miss at cover off Pietersen was bad, Harbhajan's failure to hold a leading edge from Cook off his own bowling was even worse.

Only Mohammad Kaif, who leapt athletically at mid-wicket to try and collect a lofted stroke by Collingwood as it flew over his shoulder could claim to be unfortunate.

Pietersen hit 14 fours and a six but was suffering from cramp when he top-edged a slow sweep off Kumble.

Dravid took the catch to bring an end to a third-wicket partnership worth 124.

The remainder of the day was all about Cook, who became only the 16th England player to score a hundred in his first Test by square-cutting a ball from Harbhajan for his 12th four.

Collingwood rubbed salt into India's collective wounds with a six in the final over to take him to 36 and leave the hosts facing a final day battle to escape from the game with a draw.


WATCH AND LISTEN
Interview: England batsman Alastair Cook


Interview: England's Kevin Pietersen




SEE ALSO
Late wickets boost England hopes
03 Mar 06 |  England
India respond to Collingwood ton
02 Mar 06 |  England
India grounds profiled
13 Feb 06 |  Cricket
England in India 2006
08 Dec 05 |  Future tour dates


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