Day 4 was the day of the horror journey to The Oval for me (it was about a lot more than that, but let’s get the journey out of the way) It wasn’t possible to drive to a tube station on a Monday morning so my brother was kind enough to give me a lift to Redhill station. I boarded a Southern Trains service eventually, the doors didn’t open for ages. Then they did but the train didn’t move, it seems the brakes were stuck on, then another train they were trying to attach wouldn’t. We sat there while all this went on then realised there would be another train arriving soon. The driver wouldn’t open the doors until the last possible moment which meant a rush to a different platform. But of course that train just sat there too for a while. eventually we were off, I saw we, I’d met a lady while I was waiting on the platform. She told me how she’d fallen down the gap between the train and the platform at Clapham Junction. One of my biggest fears in life is that gap! And oh my goodness that station has THE biggest gaps I’ve ever seen in my life! I have no idea how I got on and off the trains, I didn’t want to miss Alastair Cook’s entrance and I imagine that drove me, but I was still shaking when I sat in the pavilion, I will never, ever use that station again!
And so to the actual cricket, I was in time to see the players come onto the field, so there to hear and join in with another ovation for Alastair Cook. This was to be a special day in what had been a special test series. I was at Old Trafford when the pair put on 185 against Pakistan in 2016, Root ending his innings on 254 that time. Due to the form of both players they hadn’t had a good innings together in England in 2018.
That was all to change on ‘Magic Monday’ we were treated to a classic display from Cook and Root joined in for good measure. They were on a race to reach their centuries, when I say race, it was at a steady pace, proper test cricket, which was such a pleasant change this summer.
Cook reached his milestone first, he ran a single then a wild throw went to the boundary to get him there! It was an amazing moment and the response from the crowd was quite amazing, the applause went on and on and on. Alastair’s a very humble man, I imagine he was very touched by the response.
Joe Root also reached the century landmark for the first time in a test this summer. India were struggling on the bowling front until the debutant Hanuma Vihari came on, having had a great start with the bat he had a memorable spell with the ball in this second England innings. In the space of 2 balls he took the wickets of both Root and Cook. Root was caught by Hardik Pandya on as a sub and Cook was caught by Pant on the next ball. What a debut!
Alastair Cook in his final innings batted for just under 6.5 hours facing 286 balls, he scored 147 including 14 Fours. That was an incredible 33rd century for him! That innings took him to a career total of 12,472 runs at an average of 45.35. He finishes his international career as the highest left handed run scorer and the 5th of all time. That’s an amazing feat as an opener, it’s hard to imagine England will see his like again.
Joe Root batted for just under 4.5 hours, faced 190 balls and scored 125 runs, Cook and Root added 259 runs to put England in a very strong position. England were 321 for 4 and had a lead of 361. Naturally those assembled wondered when and if Root would declare. He’d had come a cropper at Headingley against the West Indies last summer, so wanted to set a high score I imagine. Captain’s are often damned if they do, damned if they don’t when it comes to a declaration.
To a degree England’s middle order dictated it in the end, Jonny Bairstow hasn’t;t had the best time with a bat since he fractured his finger, he made 18 before being bowled by Shami. Jos Buttler was caught by Shami from the bowling of Jadeja for a Duck, that brought the highly popular Sam Curran to the crease on his home ground.
Ben Stokes had been more like himself and made 37 from 36 balls before KL Rahul caught him, there was another record set, that brought Rahul’s total to 14, making him the record holder for an India player in a test series. Stokes was Jadeja’s 3rd wicket for the innings and 7th for the game. England were 397 for 7 a lead of 437, but still the innings continued.
Sam Curran made 21 and Adil Rashid 20 before Curran was caught by Pant from the bowling of Vihari. England declared on 423 for 8 a lead that should’ve been way out of India’s reach, 463. I must add that 5 penalty runs were added when the ball hit a helmet sat behind the wicketkeeper, adding insult to injury for India.
Apart from the standing ovations Alastair Cook received I must give mention to the reception Cook got from Virat Kohli and his team, so many of them wanted to shake his hands when he was out it took him an age to leave. It really was the Spirit of Cricket in full flow, everything that’s good about this game was on show at the Oval.
There was another record in the offing, Jimmy Anderson needed just 3 wickets to take him past Glenn McGrath on 563 wickets as the most prolific fast bowler. A big part of me didn’t want that to happen on the day, I wanted Cook to take all the headlines.
Things didn’t start well for India, but they did for the record Anderson was chasing. He trapped Shikhar Dhawan LBW in the third over and India were 1 for 1. Pujara befell the same fate 3 balls late run the same over make that 1 for 2.
That brought Virat Kohli seeking his own record to the crease, he needed just 7 runs to reach 600 in the series. However he was out for a Golden Duck, that was so disappointing, yes I hoped to see England win this match but Kohli deserved his record, he’s been a star with the bat in England in 2018, it’s been a delight to watch him.
On 2 for 3 463 was a long way away for India, the day was closing in so it looked like we would have a Day 5, but it looked likely to be a short day. Rahane joined Rahul and the day finished with India on 58 for 3.