While he scored a free fluent and yet, characteristically dogged 71 on Day 1 of the fifth Test at The Oval, it is the Indian bowling attack that took all the limelight away eventually. Alastair Cook is used to this feeling, having batted around many flamboyant stars throughout his career but he, as normal, was one of the first to praise his counterparts for their magnificent effort.
Cook gave England a very fine start alongside Keaton Jennings of 60 runs and then stretched his partnership with Moeen Ali to take England to 133 before he edged one from Jasprit Bumrah onto the stumps on 71.
This is when, India, who bowled with immaculate control and excellent discipline, came back outstandingly well in the game by striking 6 wickets for just 48 runs in third session and England finished the day in a vulnerable position with only 198 on the board and just three more wickets in hand.
“I thought the way the Indians bowled was fantastic,” Cook was quoted telling Sky Sports. “I think I played one cut and one pull shot all day. A lot of credit to them. It was an unbelievable spell, I was facing Jadeja at the other end and quite happy! We found it hard to know which way it was going. One thing Mo did pretty well, yes he was playing and missing, but he wasn’t curtain-railing as much, he was playing the line."
“There’s sometimes a skill in playing and missing, I know it’s a bit of a funny thing, but he wasn’t moving his hands as much. Sometimes in Test Cricket, you’ve got to just suck it up and you need a bit of luck,” he added.
Cook, who is playing his last game for England, talked about the difficult batting conditions that he has had to face in the series against a very fine Indian bowling attack and said, "It has been testing batting conditions for both sides with the new ball, but it didn’t nip as much early on here. There also wasn’t as much zip off the wicket, it was a slightly slower wicket. There was a bit of swing as the ball got a little bit older. The ball hasn’t strung straight away throughout the series."
"I can’t [think of conditions as testing as this series]. Whether it’s the ball or the amount of grass which is left on the wickets these days, you don’t often get a white wicket anymore. It’s certainly made it an interesting contest between bat and ball."
Cook also felt relieved having made a very half-century and a solid contribution in his last Test.
He reiterated the importance of the innings to him and England, and said, “I think because of the emotion I didn’t want to not get a score. There’s nothing worse than going out and not contributing after all the fuss about the week. I was probably just as nervous as I was anyway.", adding, “Everyone says, ‘just enjoy it, it doesn’t matter how many runs you get’, but actually that’s never the case. There’s never a game of cricket ever like that. It was nice to get off the mark, that was the most important thing first. I think it was seven or eight balls and then got going.”
Cook also thanked Indian Captain Virat Kohli and his men for the kind gesture of giving him a guard of honour by saying, “It was very kind of Virat and the Indians but you’re just trying to concentrate on that first ball. The reception I got was fantastic, but it kind of went on a bit and made me even more determined not to get out.”
England are currently 198/7 but with Jos Buttler and a capable lower order still to go, Cook thinks the game is very far from over and said, "You don’t know what a good score is until both sides have batted, It was disappointing to lose six in that last session, and it was slow going at Tea. You just don’t know. Even at the end the ball was still doing enough. We’ve got a very good bowling attack, and three wickets left to get. I do think I’ll be batting again."
(Inputs from ICC)