England opener Alastair Cook today scored his 33rd Test century in his final Test appearance in an England shirt at The Oval during the fifth match of the ongoing series against India. On the way, the veteran also ensured his team got to a winning position against the visitors who are already down and out of the series trailing the hosts 1-3.
Cook also achieved a unique feat of making a fifty and a hundred in both his debut and final Test match. He also surpassed Sri Lankan Kumar Sangakkara to become the fifth highest Test run scorer of all time. Indian batting greats Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid along with Australian Ricky Ponting and Protea all-rounder Jacques Kallis are the players with more runs than Cook's 12,420+ runs.
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Cook removed his helmet and soaked in a well-deserved standing ovation from this houseful crowd at The Oval. It was also a proud moment for his family who were present there and an emotional one for him. This will go done as a historic moment as he becomes the first ever with two centuries and two fifties in his first and last match.
Earlier Cook, who will retire from Test cricket at the end of his 161st match, came through a shaky start to maintain his hopes of a farewell century at the Oval. He scored 71 in England's first innings.
Reggie Duff (1902-1905)— ICC (@ICC) September 10, 2018
Bill Ponsford (1924-1934)
Greg Chappell (1970-1984)
Mohammad Azharuddin (1984-2000)
Alastair Cook (2006-2018)
Cook becomes just the fifth man to score a century in his first and last Tests! 🙌#ENGvIND #CookRetires #ThankYouChef pic.twitter.com/vU9T4alNix
Legend has it that Sir Don Bradman was teary-eyed when he was beaten by Eric Hollies' googly in his final Test match at the Oval in 1948.
However, just over 70 years later at the same ground, Alastair Cook showed no such emotions as he scored another workmanlike hundred, his 33rd and final one in Test cricket, against India.
Interestingly, his debut hundred was also against India, at Nagpur in 2006.
Not many have scored a hundred on their debut and farewell Test and Cook joined the elite club which also has Greg Chappell and Mohammed Azharuddin.
He is only the fifth such cricketer with the other two being Bill Ponsford and Reginald Duff.
While Chappell's was an official retirement, in case of Azhar, the Test match against South Africa was his 99th and last one as he was never picked again due to match-fixing allegations.
Purists equate left-handed batsmen with grace but Cook was a paradox with his effective batting that was devoid of elegance. David Gower's cover drive remains a stuff of legends but Cook has been a working-class hero as John Lenon would have put it.
If the ball is on his pads, he would just whip it and deliveries with width would be ferociously cut. However, it will be difficult to remember Cook's shots even though the impact of his innings has always been felt if one looked at the larger picture.
"He is totally committed to England and he deserved a sweet send-off," said Sunil Gavaskar, who scored one century more than the former England captain.
Cook's daughters were present and the applause was generous as the Oval gave him a standing ovation.
But it never felt like an event taking place in an amphitheatre-like it happened with Sachin Tendulkar at the Wankhede. The celebrations were as minimal as they have been for his eighth, 17th or 23rd century. Happy and matter of fact. After all, he had a job at hand. To frustrate the Indian attack no end and kill the match as a contest.
Rahul Dravid's team tasted it first in 2006, Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men suffered in 2011, 12 and 14 and now it was the turn of Virat Kohli's band to meet the same fate in 2018, albeit the last time.
Cook said that he had "nothing left in the tank" but what he didn't say was that there was the last ounce present and it was meant for the 'Three Lions'.
There was no place for any over-riding emotions and he was as focussed against Ishant Sharma's angular deliveries on the third evening as he was against rookie Hanuma Vihari's off-breaks at the stroke of lunch Monday.
In the end, he has given it his all and even ensured that Mick Jagger donates 20,000 pounds for charity as he had promised if someone scored a century or took five wickets.
Really, he had nothing left in the tank and as his one-time teammate, Graeme Swann aptly put it "Cookie is the oldest 33-year-old on the planet.
(With PTI Inputs)