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HindustanTimes Thu,18 Sep 2014

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Cook serves an appetiser before the main course
Anand Sachar, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, October 31, 2012
First Published: 12:37 IST(31/10/2012)
Last Updated: 16:37 IST(5/11/2012)
Alastair Cook on way to his unbeaten 112 on Wednesday. Reuters Photo

For a series as important as one England and India head into, setting the tone in the first game of the tour is imperative. And at four down for 133 in their opening warm-up game against India 'A', England risked conceding the upper hand to the hosts.

However, England's new Test skipper Alastair Cook again underlined his class first up in a country where he has enjoyed batting, ensuring by stumps that England would head into the last day's play as a satisfied camp.

The left-handed opener made a statement with his unbeaten century, raising an unbroken 153-run partnership with Samit Patel (82*) to particularly expose the quality of pace bowling in the India 'A' ranks.

After a deftly pushing Suresh Raina's spin to square leg for a single, Cook raised his bat to acknowledge the applause from the dressing room, celebrating in an understated manner.

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Smooth knock
Cook's unbeaten century at the Brabourne stadium was without cracks and held the innings together. Patel played the supporting role to perfection, as England, replying to the India 'A' first innings of 369 all out, reached 286 for four at stumps. This was after James Anderson took just one delivery to end the India 'A' innings.

India holds a special place in Cook's heart. In 2006, he flew in half way across the world from the West Indies, where he was with the 'A' team, to straightaway replace the injured Michael Vaughan for the first Test in Nagpur.

The 20-year-old eased into the big stage with a half century and struck a century in the second, in tough conditions and against shrewd spin bowling, signalling the arrival of a special talent.

Cook has a major task on hand, helping England clinch their first Test series in India since 1984-85.

Apart from grooming young batsmen on how to tackle spin, Cook also has the task of keeping the team united.

And if Kevin Pietersen's involvement on the field on Day 1 was anything to go by, the captain seems to have made sure that his 'reintegration' in the side has been smooth.

All eyes were on Pietersen, who seemed to be playing a typically aggressive knock until he gave a return catch to Yuvraj Singh, the man whom he had jokingly dubbed the 'pie-chucker'.

Yuvraj, having got a fluent fifty on Day 1, picked up a sharp return catch off Pietersen and had Ian Bell caught at first slip. Raina bowled Trott (56) with a ball which spun in sharply as the part-time spinners made up somewhat for the ordinary effort by the pacers.

There were no slogs, just textbook cover drives and square cuts from Cook. He was beaten on a couple of occasions by Ashok Dinda, but the opener played the other bowlers with ease.

Patel was the beneficiary of a couple of chances given by wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha. However, as the innings progressed, the all-rounder stepped down the wicket to tackle the spinners comfortably.

Dinda looked the most impressive among the pacers. He dismissed Nick Compton (0) in the first over with a ball that moved away.

He also maintained exaggerated eye-contact after hitting Jonathan Trott with a bouncer, but the aggression did not translate into more success.

Finn out
England paceman Steve Finn was ruled out of the rest of the game with a right thigh strain. An ECB spokesperson said his injury will be assessed over the next couple of days to determine a rehabilitation programme.


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