Cook’s captain’s innings takes Test the distance

ENGLAND batting coach Graham Gooch hailed Alastair Cook’s greatest ever innings after the captain’s defiant 168 not out took the first Test against India in Ahmedabad into a fifth and final day.

Cook’s 21st Test century and Matt Prior’s unbeaten 84 gave the tourists a sliver of hope of snatching a draw from the jaws of defeat, following a chastening start to the four-match series. England stood on 340-5 at stumps – a lead of just 10 runs – and Gooch, who has mentored Cook at Essex and the national team, believes it was the best display he has witnessed from the new skipper.

“Some players blossom under the captaincy as a performer, and he has certainly blossomed under that responsibility here,” said former England captain Gooch.

“It was great commitment from our guys and great fighting spirit. There was belief in their own ability, and Alastair led from the front as captain.

“It will do him the world of good to put that score on the board, showing what he is capable of and what this team is capable of. I think that was as good an innings as I’ve seen him play, because he was under great pressure after a poor first-innings performance from the team.”

England began day four 219 runs behind the hosts, and hopes of making them bat again looked bleak when batsman Ian Bell (59) and all-rounder Samit Patel (0) fell to Umesh Yadav in successive balls.

■ Cook’s ton made him the first man to score centuries in his first three Tests as England captain, following hundreds as stand-in leader in Bangladesh in 2010

■ His 21st Test century puts him ahead of Graham Gooch, level with Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen, and one behind Geoff Boycott, Colin Cowdery and Wally Hammond