LONDON: Alastair Cook displayed his all-too familiar obduracy and powered England to a position of strength in the fifth Test against India, laying the groundwork for a swansong befitting a distinguished career.
Cook was unbeaten on 46 runs in his last international innings as England reached 114 for 2 at stumps on day three at the Oval.
At end of play, he had put on 52 runs for the third wicket with skipper Joe Root (29) as England took a 154-run lead.
Post tea, Cook and Keaton Jennings (10) extended their opening partnership to 27. It wasn’t a frustrating stand yet, but it became quickly so for India as they wasted both reviews on the openers within three overs after the break.
On both occasions, Ravindra Jadeja (1-36) and keeper Rishabh Pant convinced skipper Virat Kohli to go for the reviews, despite the ball missing the off-stump. Mohammed Shami (1-32) then bowled Jennings in the 13th over.
Cook and Moeen Ali (20) put on 35 runs for the second wicket and took England past 50 in the 24th over. The latter enjoyed a life on 14, as KL Rahul dropped him at second slip off Ishant Sharma (0-11).
This was before Jadeja scored 86 not out as India finished their first innings at 292 (95 overs), conceding a 40-run lead. The left-hander faced 156 balls and hit 11 fours as well as a six, narrowing the gap between the two teams.
Earlier, Hanuma Vihari scored a half-century on debut as India reached 240 for seven at lunch.
Starting from overnight 174 for six, Vihari and Jadeja looked to bat for time and dig India out of the precarious position they found themselves in.
James Anderson (2-54) and Stuart Broad (1-50) bowled a threatening first spell, but both batsmen played watchfully and with patience. There were a couple edges, though they didn’t go to hand or fell short.
Runs started trickling in as India scored 33 runs in the first hour of play. 200 came up in the 63rd over, with the duo adding 50 runs for their seventh-wicket partnership off 117 balls.
Jadeja started taking a few more liberties with his stroke making, while Vihari stayed calm and looked to score when the opportunity presented itself. In the 71st over, England reviewed a caught behind decision against Jadeja, but there was no edge.
Vihari (56) then reached his maiden Test half-century off 104 balls, justifying the decision to include him ahead of Karun
Just when it appeared that he would take India to lunch without any loss, Ali struck against the run of play and dismissed Vihari. The batsman reviewed, but DRS didn’t prove conclusively if he did not edge behind, as the bat seemed to hit pad the same time as the ball.
Vihari and Jadeja added 77 runs in all, as India scored 66-1 in this first session of play.
On day one, India reduced to England to 198 for seven, and they finished at 332 on day two, thanks to Jos Buttler’s 89.
England have already taken an unassailable 3-1 lead in the series, with wins in Birmingham, Lord’s and Southampton. India won the third Test at Nottingham.