Cricket: Alastair Cook defies heat to keep England’s pot boiling

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ALASTAIR Cook was in typically unflappable form as he batted through day two of England’s warm-up match against a Sri Lankan Board XI on his way to 163 not out.

He batted for over six-and-a-half hours – and 294 balls – in sweltering heat and humidity in a total of 303 for eight, showing the mental and physical strength which England, who lead by 134, will rely on in the forthcoming Test series.

Cook nudged a single off the second ball of the morning to get off the mark and, though playing a conservative game, found the ropes for the first time with a punchy drive off Nilanka Premaratne. He took four more off Premaratne when he offered some width outside off stump as England moved to 50 in 99 balls.

Andrew Strauss and Cook looked well at ease as Prasanna Jayawardene overbowled his seamers. The skipper had looked comfortable all morning, but fell lbw to Dilruwan Perera for 40 before lunch.

Cook reached 50 at the start of the afternoon session, bringing up the mark in 112 balls.

Kevin Pietersen added momentum to the innings, while Cook accumulated steadily at the other end. The third-wicket pair eased England past their opponents’ total but off-spinner Sachithra Serasinghe halted Pietersen’s entertaining knock at 39, then bowled Ian Bell for a two-ball duck.

Cook had to endure a delay in the field on 98 but he was not about to let his hard-won century slip and waited calmly for the chance to whip one into the leg-side for three.

He had taken 220 deliveries to reach three figures, hitting six fours. As soon as he had celebrated, he immediately set about playing – and running – more aggressively and, by stumps, was scoring with freedom.