Cook: Century provided much needed relief

ENGLAND batsman Alastair Cook admitted the scoring of his 20th Test century provided a considerable catharsis after inspiring England to an impressive lead during day one of the first Test against South Africa.

England reached 267-3 by close with Cook’s calm 114 not out supplementing Jonathan Trott’s 71 and Kevin Pietersen’s 42, and given the vice captain had three days earlier attended the funeral of former schoolboy opening partner David Randall, who died aged 27 of cancer, it was only natural he would be emotional in response.

“It was very satisfying,” said Cook, who now equals England batting coach Graham Gooch in the list of England’s most prolific centurions. “When you come so close a few times – I think it’s been a year since my last Test hundred – it makes it a very special moment. It’s nice to join Goochie. Clearly he was a great player, and to have the same amount of hundreds as him is special.

“It was an emotional time, and when you score hundreds the emotions are right up there. We are lucky enough to play cricket – unfortunately he [Randall] can’t.”

Morne Morkel dismissed England captain Andrew Strauss with the fourth ball of the day to provide conditions in which it was difficult for both Cook and Trott to impress, and the former conceded that play was not as fluid as he would have perhaps preferred.

“In that first session, it nibbled around,” he said. “We had to grind our way through it and because the pitch is quite dry on top with not much underneath, it was quite slow.”

The patience of Cook and Trott frustrated South Africa for lengthy periods with both Imran Tahir and JP Duminy failing to stem their steady flow of runs, and it was only when Trott flashed at a wide bowl from Morkel that he was caught by wicketkeeper AB de Villiers.

Despite the difficulty experienced at the start of a series which could determine the world’s top Test team, South Africa’s bowling coach Allan Donald was satisfied with his side’s efforts.

“[England] batted really well,” he said. “It’s a hard day’s Test cricket. But we stuck to our task really well.”