England v India: Alastair Cook hits half-century in final Test

By Stephan ShemiltBBC Sport at The Oval
Fifth Specsavers Test, The Kia Oval (day one)
England 198-7: Cook 71, Moeen 50, Ishant 3-28
India: Yet to bat

Alastair Cook made 71 in his final match for England but India's bowlers seized the initiative on day one of the fifth Test at The Oval.

Opener Cook, who will retire after his 161st Test, was given a guard of honour by the India team on his way to the crease.

He was dropped on 37 by Ajinkya Rahane but, for the most part, batted as if in his prime until he played on off Jasprit Bumrah and departed to cheers from an adoring crowd.

Cook's dismissal sparked an all-too-familiar collapse, with England losing three wickets for one run and three more for 10 runs either side of Moeen Ali reaching a painstaking half-century.

Ishant Sharma claimed 3-28 as England closed an attritional, old-fashioned day on 198-7.

That is an excellent outcome for India, who put in a superb bowling performance on a slow pitch that looks to be the best batting surface of the series.

England already have an unassailable 3-1 lead, while India are looking to win two Tests on a tour here for the first time since 1986.

Cook digs in one more time

Cook, who holds the record for the most Test caps, runs, hundreds and catches for England, has chosen to end his career in the midst of his leanest spell - he averaged only 18 with the bat in 2018 before this knock.

He has described retiring as a "weight off his shoulders" and certainly looked more at home at the crease than at any point in the series, defending with solidity, moving with fluency and judging soundly - just as he did at his peak.

The 33-year-old's day began with the presentation of a commemorative cap from England and Wales Cricket Board director of cricket Andrew Strauss and chairman Colin Graves, then his walk to the crease was accompanied by the first of three standing ovations and the show of respect from the tourists.

The early part of his stay included trademark Cook shots - clips off the pads, a cut and a hook - mixed with rarer drives through the off side.

As India's bowling improved and run-scoring became harder, Cook was forced to revert to his legendary concentration and patience.

Even then, he required the fortune of being dropped by gully fielder Rahane when regular nemesis Ishant squared him up with one that swung away.

With the storm weathered, a memorable and emotional century seemed in the offing, only for Cook to inside edge on to his stumps from one that Bumrah got to keep low.

Frustrated, Cook left the arena with his bat raised to acknowledge the applause and cheering of a crowd that was again on their feet.

End of an era, same old problems

Even if Cook has been short of runs, his retirement compounds the problems of a fragile England batting line-up that once again found itself in trouble.

Keaton Jennings looked assured for his 23 before turning the spin of Ravindra Jadeja to leg slip, leaving Moeen to begin a struggle with both himself and the India attack.

Accustomed to the middle order in Test cricket, new number three Moeen was dropped on two by third slip Virat Kohli, and played and missed countless times. It is to his credit that he inched his way to the slowest of his 13 Test half-centuries.

He witnessed England's first slump and was part of the second. After Cook fell, Joe Root played across a Bumrah inswinger to be lbw in familiar fashion for a duck, while the horribly out-of-form Jonny Bairstow poked at Ishant for a third nought in four innings.

Ben Stokes hung around before being lbw to Jadeja for 11, Moeen fenced at Ishant on 50, while Sam Curran was caught behind trying to leave the same bowler for a third England duck.

It would have been much worse for England had Jos Buttler not overturned being given lbw off Mohammed Shami as he and Adil Rashid scraped to the end of the day.

India refuse to fade

Virat Kohli celebrates a wicket
This is the first time since 1999 that there has been fewer than 200 runs in a full day's play on day one of a Test in England. That day New Zealand scored 170-8 at The Oval

India responded to losing the series by bringing in Jadeja for fellow spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and giving a debut to batsman Hanuma Vihari in place of all-rounder Hardik Pandya.

In the morning session it looked as though they had been deflated by the defeat in the fourth Test in Southampton, but they regrouped to put in an outstanding display in the afternoon and evening.

Yet again, their pace bowlers were excellent, their relentlessness eventually earning belated rewards. Once they found the correct, fuller length, all three of Bumrah, Ishant and Shami swung the ball at a lively pace.

Jadeja, in his first Test of the tour, used his left-arm spin to both control scoring and provide a wicket-taking threat, a task that has been beyond Ashwin in the previous two matches.

India were only let down by their usually reliable catching - the drops could have put the visitors in an even stronger position.

Still, their batsmen look set to be given the opportunity to bat England out of the game.

England's batting problems resurface on day of emotion

Analysis by Michael Vaughan on Test Match Special

It was a day of emotion because of Cook. After about 20 minutes it looked like the pressure had lifted from him and you could see in his movements, he was playing nicely.

It's the perfect wicket to go on and make a century. It's also the perfect wicket for Keaton Jennings, with the ball sitting up nicely and allowing him to play off the back foot, with none of the skiddy bowling that gets him in trouble.

But then he gave his wicket away. You can't keep just playing someone because you think he's a nice lad. It was a really soft dismissal and you worry about him in Sri Lanka against Rangana Herath.

Keaton Jennings walks off after being dismissed
Keaton Jennings averages 22.66 in 12 Tests

You could see Moeen really wanted to work out number three. But there are seven Tests until next year's Ashes - do I want Moeen batting three against the new ball? No.

Equally, it doesn't matter where Jonny Bairstow bats if he bats like he has done in the last two Tests. He could bat at number 11 and get out playing those shots.

Joe Root could get out like that batting at number 10, falling his head over the ball and being trapped lbw.

We've got to stop finding excuses for batsmen who just aren't playing well enough.


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