ALASTAIR Cook’s career-best 294 laid the platform for England to beat India at Edgbaston and so replace the tourists as the world’s best Test side.
Cook’s dominating display led England to a massive first innings total of 710 for seven declared on the third day of the third Test in Birmingham on Friday (August 12).
It was England’s best in Tests for 73 years and their third highest of all-time behind their 903 for seven declared against Australia at The Oval in 1938 and 849 against the West Indies at Kingston in 1930.
England’s day then got better still when India lost Virender Sehwag for his second first ball nought of the match, the recalled opener completing a “king pair” when he edged a drive off James Anderson to home skipper Andrew Strauss at first slip.
India were 35 for one at stumps – still needing 451 more runs just to make England bat again.
Fit-again opener Gautam Gambhir was 14 not out and veteran Rahul Dravid 18 not out.
It all left England superbly placed to go an unbeatable 3-0 up in this four-match series and secure a win that would see them replace India at the top of the ICC’s Test Championship table.
Cook’s marathon innings of 12 hours 47 minutes, just half an hour short of the England record set by Len Hutton when making 364 against Australia at The Oval in 1938, saw him face 545 balls with 33 boundaries.
But six runs short of becoming the sixth Englishman to score a Test triple hundred, and the first since his mentor Graham Gooch achieved the feat against India at Lord’s in 1990, Cook was out when he flat-batted Sharma to deep point where Raina held a well-judged catch.
“I’m slightly disappointed,” Cook told Sky Sports after missing out on the coveted 300. “Still, had you offered me that at the start of the game I would have snapped your hand off.
“The plan for this morning was to grind them down, and keep grinding and then accelerate later on today and that’s what we tried to do.”
A wearing pitch was taking turn towards the close, encouraging England fans their side could wrap a second successive win inside four days following a 319-run second Test success at Trent Bridge.
England resumed Friday on 456 for three in reply to India’s 224.