London: Fairytales are easy to find in fiction books. But what unfolded in front of a capacity crowd at The Oval on Monday will go down as one of the sweetest chapters in the history of England cricket.
Alastair Cook signed off from Test cricket with a sublime knock of 147 on day four of the fifth Test, complimented with Joe Root’s gritty 125 that left India in a pickle. With openers from both sides struggling to get in the grove in the series, failing to register a single fifty-plus score, it was Cook who started his swansong in fine fashion with a resolute score of 71 that set the tone for the hosts. But he decided to save the best for last, and boy, it turned out to be a fairytale.
Since the time he walked out to bat, writing the final chapter of his Test career, Cook did not show any signs of nerves or wasn’t overwhelmed by the situation. With England resuming at 154-2 after taking control of the 3rd innings, it proved to be just another day at the office for the Essex batsman.
Burdened by no pressure to deliver and nothing to prove to the selectors, Cook struck a cucumber-cool ton, similar to the one coming against the same opposition during his debut at Nagpur in 2006.
Back at the crease with 46 in his account, England’s most-capped test player and leading run-getter rolled back the years, playing with a sense of urgency to hit three-figures for the 33rd occasion in the red-ball format.
While he started slow, looking to build on a solid target for the visitors to chase, the southpaw wrote his way into the record books as runs started coming thick and fast.
As he crossed 76, he dethroned Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara in the all-time list of the leading run-getters in Test, also making him the highest-scoring left-hander in the process.
The crowd waited with bated breaths as Cook battled his way into the nineties, but it was overthrow from Jasprit Bumrah that got the 33-year-old batsman in a select first and last Test hundred club.
Reggie Duff (1902-1905)
Bill Ponsford (1924-1934)
Greg Chappell (1970-1984)
Mohammad Azharuddin (1984-2000)
Alastair Cook (2006-2018)
Cook becomes just the fifth man to score a century in his first and last Tests! 🙌#ENGvIND #CookRetires #ThankYouChef pic.twitter.com/vU9T4alNix— ICC (@ICC) September 10, 2018
At the other end, skipper Cook was catching pace with his partner, aiming to break his century duck after a period of over 12 months. Following a dropped chance by Cheteshwar Pujara in the slip cordon on 94, Root made the Indians pay the price with his 14th Ton, the first of the series.
England even had luck to thank for. Ishant Sharma was kept out of play with an ankle injury and pacer Mohammed Shami struggled to keep up with his fitness. India ran out of options, bowling Ravindra Jadeja and Bumrah in tandem that greased the wheels for the hosts.
From boundaries to singles, the hosts kept the scoreboard ticking as India threw in the towel. A mammoth 259-run stand between Cook and Root for the third wicket helped England declare at 423-8 before India stumbled to 58-3 at stumps, losing Kohli for a golden duck.
Cook’s final flourish with the bat saw him finish behind the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Jacques Kallis and Rahul Dravid – an elite club he would be immensely proud of. He now has over 3,500 runs more in his kitty than the next highest run-scoring Englishman, none other than his mentor Graham Gooch.
It a last supper for the Chef but a moment that will live with England forever....