Alastair Cook’s latest tour-de-force innings has put England in charge against India – but his team-mates still knew it was a good idea to steer clear after he was out for 190 yesterday.
The England captain was within two more boundaries of his third Test double-century when he was run out in bizarre circumstances. He had already done much to set his team on their way to a stumps total of 509 for six, and a lead of 193, at Eden Gardens where they can therefore hope to push for victory over the final two days of the third Test.
But such is Cook’s insatiable quest for runs, in the team cause as well as his own, that those in the dressing room left him some distance after he made his way off. Jonathan Trott (87), who shared a stand of 173 with his captain, made it clear the equable Cook is hardly one for histrionics.
It is not his style to turn the air blue with self-reproach or frustration. Yet even so – after the opener had somehow chosen not to ground his bat as a fierce direct-hit throw came in from midwicket and was therefore run out, backing up – Trott and others left the captain to his own devices for a while.
“He didn’t really say anything. We just let him stew,” said Cook’s second-wicket partner. “He was obviously deeply upset, and realised what an opportunity he had out there to still be batting tonight. That’s the way he is. He’ll be very disappointed.”
Cook could only really have himself to blame, although it was perhaps understandable he might have one loss of concentration after more than eight hours in the middle. “It was very strange. I’d just put it down as a freak dismissal,” added Trott. “It’s really disappointing for him and the team, to get out that way on 190. But I think we’d have taken that from him. He played magnificently well.
“He’s not one who will express too much emotion or disgust. Deep down I know he’ll be very upset, but we’re also very happy with the job he did.”
England’s prospects of bowling India out to go 2-1 up with one to play in the series are enhanced by signs that a good pitch is beginning to deteriorate.
“The second new ball got a bit more bounce from the spinners when they got hold of it,” said Trott. “It was pretty flat for the first couple of days. Now there’s maybe a bit more turn, and variable bounce. I had a few that I left that kept low. If they’d been straight it would have been quite tricky.”
It was hard work for Cook, Trott, Kevin Pietersen (54) and others – but they did enough to ensure England consolidated the advantage they already held.
“This was a good day for us, and what we wanted at the start of it,” added Trott. “We didn’t want to put too much pressure on ourselves, thinking we’d had a good day yesterday and had to back that up.
“It was just important Alastair and I continued the good work he and Nick Compton had done yesterday. It’s been tricky (against India’s spinners), but I think we’ve just played a lot better in these last two games than we did in the first.”
India need to do just that too, if they are to avoid a second successive defeat. But their left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, whose three wickets here have cost him 140 runs so far, is expecting a successful rearguard. “It’s a very good wicket, and I think our guys are quite confident,” he said.
England are nonetheless obvious favourites to lighten their captain’s mood again over the next two days. In the meantime, the advice from Trott – and he is one who should surely know – is that Cook should not beat himself up too much about making a mere 190.
“Seeking an endless amount of runs can be quite an unfruitful path to go down, and could be quite frustrating,” he said.