Saturday, March 28, 2015
   
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Cook's fifty puts England on course

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cookAlastair Cook and Ian Bell brought order to England's pursuit of 191 for victory in the first Test at Lord's after two early wickets had raised West Indies' expectations that a startling victory might be within their grasp.

Apart from Kemar Roach, no West Indies bowler was able to build much pressure and England rustled up 121 runs in 28 overs in an enterprising morning's batting with Cook, still to score at start of play, reaching his half-century in the penultimate over before the break.

The fifth-wicket stand between Cook and Bell was worth 74 runs at lunch, rapidly assembled at a rate of more than four an over. The sun that was struggling to break through looked as if it would shine, if it arrived in time, on an England victory that would put them 1-0 up in the series.

There were no 4am queues as there had been at Lord's for the final day against India a year earlier but expectancy was high for a final day that many had assumed would not happen. West Indies had given England a fiery four overs on the fourth evening but they needed early wickets to stir the imagination a second time.

They got them, too, with Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen removed with the new ball still hard. On each occasion, a West Indies fast bowler responded to a boundary by delivering something better.

Roach, West Indies' main hope, set things moving in his third over of the morning. Trott steered him deliberately through the slips for four, and had a similar outcome in mind from the next ball, but this time it gripped up the hill and Darren Sammy took a good catch to his left at second slip.

Pietersen had fulsome strokeplay in mind to get England out of a tight corner. He had memories of a big hundred in Colombo to sustain him, and the adulation of IPL. It was not long before he was met by a debutant, Shannon Gabriel, and the temptation to break his nerve immediately must have been high.

Gabriel, a 24-year-old Trinidadian, dragged his third ball down short and wide and Pietersen pulled it haughtily to the midwicket boundary for four. The next ball was also short, but straighter, and Pietersen was cramped as he again sought out midwicket's open spaces and succeeded only in bottom-edging to the wicketkeeper.

At 57 for 4, even though one of the wickets was the nightwatchman, Anderson, England were under pressure. But the wicket was still sound and England accepted opportunities to press ahead quickly. Cook kept England's innings moving forward with several controlled drives and West Indies turned to Marlon Samuels' offspin. It was delivered at a saunter with no suggestion that a Test was in the balance and Bell's late cut in his first over brought up the 50 stand in only 12 overs

Roach apart, West Indies did not look unduly threatening. Edwards was out of sorts, Gabriel's accuracy wavered and Sammy lacked menace. Cook's pull shot against Sammy, followed up by a crisp late cut against Samuels to bring up his fifty, smacked of restored England authority.


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