May 25, 2018
Europe

Cook double century takes England to first-innings lead for first time this series

Veteran England opening batsman Alastair Cook has scored his second double century against Australia, giving the tourists a commanding first-innings lead in the fourth Ashes Test at the MCG.

Cook spent more than 10 hours at the crease for his unbeaten 244, giving England a lead of 164.

Geoff Lemon's analysis

There have been times in the last four years when Steve Smith has not seemed human, as he stacks up numbers like what Bart Simpson would call "some kind of non-giving-up runs guy".

Then there have been times that suggest he isn't a cyborg, like chewing his fingernails off during England's run chase in Adelaide, or his tears after winning the Ashes in Perth.

Finally, the Melbourne Test proved Smith's fundamental biological nature in the most earthy possible way. It turns out that even the most focused of cricketers finds it hard to maintain than when he has a stomach upset that necessitated emergency trips off the field.

While he managed to keep to the field for most of the day, Smith wasn't at his sharpest as leader, and it showed as England managed to bat through all three sessions.

The captain missed a catch at square leg when Alastair Cook was 153, and the Englishman added another 91 by stumps. This after Smith had dropped him the previous day at slip on 66.

Several other chances went begging through this third day, as Smith persisted in placing himself a pace too wide at first slip. While there were plenty of edges, a couple went between Smith and the wicketkeeper, wide enough that Tim Paine wasn't confident to launch for them.

A couple of chances were also missed in the deep, with players stationed 20 paces in from the rope rather than back on the boundary. Both Moeen Ali and Stuart Broad survived big hits that carried the catchers in the deep rather than falling to them.

It was a tough day at the office for Smith, but it always is when you spend half of it in the sick bay. Here's hoping the fourth day lets him focus on digesting tactics rather than how his digestive tract is.

It was his highest score against Australia and his third highest in Tests.

After finishing the day at 9-491, the visitors will go into the second innings with their noses in front for the first time this summer.

Having brought up his century in the final over of day two on Wednesday, Cook kicked on to register his second double century of 2017, which included 27 boundaries off 409 deliveries.

He got valuable late support from Stuart Broad, who brought up his half century before going down swinging for 56 off 63 balls as England chased quick runs late in the day.

Cook's knock was his most successful outing on Australian soil since he arrived with a bang in the 2010-11 Ashes tour.

He averaged 127.66 in that man-of-the-series performance, which featured three centuries and was highlighted by his 235 not out in the second innings of the Gabba Test.

Until this Test, the 33-year-old hadn't reached three figures against Australia since.

With Jackson Bird still searching for his first wicket in his comeback Test, Cook stroked a straight drive to the boundary to bring up his double century 360 balls and 560 minutes into his marathon knock.

It was his fifth career double ton, with his most recent (243) coming in August against the West Indies in Birmingham.

Shaky support from partners

Joe Root kicks out after his MCG dismissal

England captain Joe Root couldn't go on with the start he made on day two, being caught on 61 by Nathan Lyon off the bowling of Pat Cummins after putting on 138 runs with Cook for the third wicket.

From there, Cook had the makings of partnerships with Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes. However each fell before they could go on to make any significant contributions.

Stuart Broad walks off and raises his bat after making 56 runs

Malan became Josh Hazlewood's second lbw victim of the match on 14, while Bairstow and Ali both fell to the spin of Lyon.

Bairstow (22) was caught behind by Paine, while Ali fell on his sword, having come out swinging before being caught by Shaun Marsh after a quickfire 20 off 14 balls.

Cummins, who had laboured under illness yesterday, was rewarded with his second scalp when Woakes tried to pull a short ball on 26, only managing to pop a simple catch off his gloves to Paine behind the stumps.

External Link: Fourth Ashes Test, Australia v England Manhattan

When debutant Tom Curran went for just 4, caught behind off Hazlewood, it was obvious the biggest threat to Cook's double century would be him running out of partners.

The opener was on 182 when the eighth wicket fell, with only Broad and James Anderson left to escort him to his milestone.

The former skipper showed faith in his tailenders though, maintaining his patient approach even as Broad jumped around under a barrage of short-pitched bowling.

The number 10 batsmen didn't disappoint, bringing up his half century with a pull shot to the fence off Cummins.

He was finally removed when Usman Khawaja's catch in the outfield off the bowling of Cummins was confirmed by video review.

External Link: Fourth Ashes Test, Australia v England scoreboard

Original Article

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