Alastair Cook’s typically grinding effort of 46 not out in his final Test innings before international retirement left England in a strong position in the fifth Test against India at the Oval on Sunday.
England were 114 for two in their second innings at stumps on the third day, a lead of 154 runs, having already won this five-match series at 3-1 up. Now Cook, England’s all-time leading Test run-scorer and captain Joe Root (29 not out), his successor as skipper, will look to pile on the agony for India when they resume their unbroken third-wicket partnership of 52 on Monday.
India’s Ravindra Jadeja continued an excellent return to Test cricket by starring with both bat and ball. Jadeja, playing his first Test of the series after being recalled in place of the injured Ravichandran Ashwin, added to his haul of four first-innings wickets by top-scoring with 86 not out in an India first-innings total of 292.
England, who led by 40 runs on first innings, have long struggled to find an opening partner for Cook, with 12 batsmen given a shot at the job since Andrew Strauss retired six years ago. And ahead of their upcoming our of Sri Lanka, England may now be looking for two openers rather than one after Keaton Jennings completed a miserable series by being bowled for 10 playing no shot to Mohammed Shami on Sunday.
It was the second time in as many Test that Jennings had been dismissed leaving the ball and meant he ended the series with just 163 runs at a meagre average of 18. An unconcerned Cook, who has already batted for more than three hours this innings, went 26 balls without scoring but seized on an over-pitched ball to drive Shami down the ground for four.
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Moeen Ali, batting at number three — another of England’s problem positions — failed to demonstrate similar patience. The third member of England’s all left-handed top three, Moeen drove loosely at Ishant Sharma on 14 only for normally reliable second slip KL Rahul to drop the head-high chance. Fortunately for India, Moeen was bowled by Jadeja for 20 trying to drive the left-arm spinner out of the rough. But Root, batting in his favoured position of number four, showed his class with a straight-driven four off Shami to take the score to 100 for two.
A frustrating day for England spearhead James Anderson saw him continue to remain two shy of Australia great Glenn McGrath’s record of 563 Test wickets — the most taken by a fast bowler.