September 7th 2018, as the beginning of play drew closer at the Kia Oval, everyone in attendance knew the 5th test of this series would be unlike any other. Although England was already 3-1 against India, meaning the series is wrapped up and won, there was a more significant meaning to this game, Alastair Cooks’ last test match. England’s opening batsman, who still is the highest run-scorer in test cricket as of writing this and former captain would only bat two more times for England, but before he was done, he and his teammates had records to break.
Where It All Began:
Born on December 25th 1984 in Gloucester, Alastair Nathan Cook could be considered the best Christmas present England ever had. From a young age, Cook developed a love for cricket. The first notable team the young prospect played for was Bedfordshire CCC in the minor counties league, where he made his debut in 2002. However, his time there would be short-lived, as he would be scouted and picked up by Essex CCC from the Major county league in 2003. His first-class debut would come that same year against Nottinghamshire. Although his first innings didn’t go to plan, only scoring 13, he would make amends in the second by scoring 69* to help Essex to a 9-wicket victory. In May 2004, after a run of half-centuries, Cook would get his maiden first-class hundred against Leicestershire scoring 126. His exploits at Essex over the next two seasons were not only catching the eyes of the county league, but he would finally get that long-awaited phone call, England had come knocking. He would make his debut in an away series against India on March 1st 2006. He was called in to replace Marcus Trescothick. Despite playing on a bigger stage, Cook seemed to thrive under pressure. Joining Andrew Strauss at the top of the order, his first innings would go well as he would get his maiden test fifty before being bowled out by Pathan for 60 from 160 balls. After a vital hundred from Paul Collingwood, England would finish the innings on 393 all out. Although, it was his second innings that drew the most attention. England had a lead of 161, and Cook did not miss out on a chance to add to the total. He would score his maiden test Century of 104* from 243 balls, making him just the 16th Englishman to score a century on test debut. England would finish on 297/3d, but despite his heroics with the bat, England would only manage a draw for the test as India finished 260/6 at the close of play. The series would go onto being a 1-1 tie, but despite the result, Cook had proven he had the talent to play in an England shirt. The Essex opener would make his ODI debut on June 28th 2006 against Sri Lanka. A year later, he would also make his IT20 debut on June 28th 2007 against the West Indies.
In 2006, Cook would get another call from England. This time asking him to be part of The Ashes test against Australia down under. With Marcus Trescothick pulling out again, Cook had another chance to impress. This series didn’t go to plan for England, as they would go on to lose the series in a 5-0 Whitewash. For Cook, there was a silver lining. In the third test at Perth, England found themselves in the last innings needing 577 to win. Rather than thinking of victory, England focused on not getting out to draw the test. Cook would bat for over 6 hours at the crease. He scored his first Ashes century of 116 from 290 balls before ultimately edging off McGrath into the keeper Gilchrest’s gloves three overs before the end of play on day four. This was also Cooks’ fourth century before he was 22, double the amount any English player had achieved before at this age. In 2009, Cookie, as he is affectionately known as, would take part in his second Ashes series, this time on home soil. England would emerge victorious, winning the series 2-1 and regain the Ashes.
Despite the Ashes victory, Cook’s playstyle was not without its critics. Due to his trigger movement having ‘a lot of moving parts’, people said its overcomplicated nature was causing him trouble with the bat. On November 15th 2009, the Gloustershire native would play his last IT20 against South Africa. His slower-paced style of batting was not suited to the game’s faster pace. Cook was looking to answer his critic, and with another Ashes series coming up in Australia in 2010-2011, he would have his chance. This series was a true demonstration of Cook’s destructive ability. During the first test in Brisbane, Cook would score a first-innings 67 before following it up with a massive 235* from 428 balls. This was Cook’s first double century and, in the process, Cook and Strauss partnership of 188 made them the highest-scoring opening partnership pair in England’s history. England would finish this innings 517/1. However, Australia would force the draw. In the second test after bowling Australia out for 245, Cook continued where he left off in Brisbane, scoring 148 from 269 balls. In the process, he broke Wally Hammond’s record of most runs without being out for England with 383, and Nassar Hussain’s record of the most time at the crease without being out staying at the crease for a total of 1,053 minutes. England finished on 620/5d, taking a 1-0 lead. Following average scores in Perth and a 50 in Melbourne, Cook would get another Century in Sydney, scoring 189 from 342 as England held the Ashes 3-1. This achievement also marked their first Ashes win in Australia since 1986-87. Cook would finish the series with 766, the second-highest by an Englishman after Wally Hammonds 906 set 80 years prior. Cook was named man of the match for the fifth test and man of the series.
The English superstar would follow this success with a tour of India, scoring a new high scoring of 294 and leading England to be the best-rated test team in world cricket. In August 2012, Andrew Strauss stepped down as the captain of England, with Cook appointed as his successor. In 2013, Captain Cook led England to their third Ashes victory in a row. However, losses in other series led to questions about his form as his scores were becoming less consistent. Alongside this, England had another problem in finding Cook an opening partner. England tried 12 different opening partners for Cook. However, none of the players could complement his style of play. After losing the Ashes in 2013-14, the opener would retire from ODI cricket on the December 16th 2014, finishing with 5 ODI hundreds.
England would regain the Ashes with a home win in 2015 being Cook’s second ashes win as captain and fourth in total. He would become the first England cricketer to be involved in 50 test wins after the series. The man commonly known as Chef would step down from captaincy in 2016 after a record 59 tests in charge, with Joe Root elected to replace him. According to the Guardian, Cook stated that “Stepping down has been an incredibly hard decision but I know this is the correct decision for me and at the right time for the team.”, However, the now-former skipper decided to continue to play for England despite relinquishing his role. Going into the 2017/18 Ashes, Cook’s suffered a dip in form, going through a period of picking up a handful 50’s against South Africa in 2017. Despite this, he picked up 244* from 409 balls in the fourth test, which was the highest test score by an opener who had carried his bat.
Going into his final test, Cook had scored 56 test 50’s and 32 test 100’s, which also included five double hundreds, holding the record for most in both categories by an English player. He was also the 6th highest test run-scorer of all time on an immense 12,254 test runs. He also had one test wicket to his name.Embed from Getty Images
Before The Game
On September 3rd 2018, Cook officially announced he would retire after the Oval Test against India. The former captain had admitted that “he had nothing left in the tank”, with this statement reflecting the toll being an England captain had taken. With England already claiming the series victory 3-1, the news that this would be the last time Chef would compete on the international stage overshadowed the majority of the build-up to the game. Former England Captain Graham Gooch commented, “It was a sad day for English cricket when a great player like Alastair Cook who has been such a role model, such a beacon for our last 12 years decides to call it a day.” He also went on to say “If you were to design a cricketer for your country, Alastair Cook would be that role model”. Fellow former captain Michael Vaughan also came out to applaud the soon-departing legend, saying, “No player has given more to the England cricket shirt”. Cook’s impact on the sport and legacy reached far beyond his homeland, with as former Indian batsman VVS Laxman stating, “Right from the time he made his debut against us in Nagpur, knew that he is a very special talent”.
However, not all people wanted Cook to have a grand final farewell. Ex-England player, coach now commentator David (Bumble) Lloyd tweeted “Cook has been a wonderful player for England .. a rock .. he says, “the tank is empty” Can’t personally see why he plays at the Oval .. get the new chap in immediately”. This opinion sparked debate among fans if Cook should get one final chance to say goodbye to the game. Bumble replied to the many fans who didn’t share his point of view saying that because Cook wasn’t dead, he could “parade around the ground at Lunchtime”. Despite these views, The England selectors gave Cook the nod to open for England. Everything was now in place, as fans around the world eagerly awaited the start of the final test.
It would be unfair to say all the media attention focused on Cook, as another man in the team was eyeing up an impressive record. James Anderson was just five wickets away from overtaking the Australian bowler Glenn McGrath as the most successful pace bowler of all time. McGraths’ record stood at a mighty 563 wickets. Anderson would start game hot on his heels with 559 with an eager crowd behind him hoping to see that record tumble. The Lancashire bowler was also a very close friend of Alastair Cook. If Anderson wanted to break the record, he had to put aside the emotion of sharing the field with him on the international stage for the last time.
As the clock struck 10:30 am on September 7th 2018, the two captains, England’s Joe Root and India’s Virat Kohli, were summoned to the Oval’s field for the coin toss. Root won the toss, electing to bat first, which, considering the warm temperature and clear skies, was thought to be the correct decision. This choice also gave the sold-out crowd in attendance what they wanted, as Cook would be batting first. His opening partner was Keaton Jennings, who played at a subpar level thus far this series, only managing a high score of 42. Cook’s form was nothing to write home about either, with a lower series high score than his partner with just 29. England’s relied on their middle-order stars Root, Bairstow and Stokes and bowling attack to steady the ship throughout the series.
At around 10:55 am, the two openers took the field. In a heartwarming show of respect, Cook was greeted by a guard of honour from the Indian team. After a handshake between Virat Kohli and the departing legend, the two teams took their positions, ready to begin the day’s play. With William Blakes’ Jerusalem ringing out around the ground, it was time for this match to get underway.
England’s First Innings
After getting a leg by in the first over, Cook would score his first runs off the bat in the second after turning a Sharma delivery through the off side for three. Over the next few overs, Cook would enjoy a couple of boundaries. The first of which flicked off the pads from Ishant Sharma, with the other cutaway through the off-side from Jasprit Bumrah. As was typical for Cook throughout his career, he would pick on anything short or down the leg side, and he would use these skills to pull Bumrah through the leg side for four. The opening partnership would put up 60-runs before Jennings nudged a ball delivered by Ravindra Jadeja around the corner, which was caught K L Rahul at leg slip. The South African-born Englishman was gone for 23 from 75 balls, leaving England 60/1. Moeen Ali was the next man up, with the new partnership going into lunch at 68/1. It was a solid start from the home team’s perspective. However, there was a lot left to do if they were to produce a fighting total from the first innings.
After lunch, Ali would find the boundary for the first time. As pressure began to build on Cook, he would find a release shot in a cover drive off of Sharma, taking him to 43 off of 108 balls. Despite this, the run rate was down at 2.13 an over, meaning England would have to quicken the pace if they were to build a substantial total. Ali chipped in with a few more boundaries taking him to 20 off of 63 to relieve some pressure from the former England Captain. Cook moved onto 49 from 132, with a 50 insight after backfoot driving a ball from Jadeja through the covers. This shot also brought up 100 for England in the innings, moving them to 103/1. After a punch shot down the ground gave him a chance to run for two, Cook would hear a sound he had heard many times in his career. The crowd and England dressing room all rose to their feet to applaud yet another milestone for the veteran opener as he moved to 51 from 139 balls, scoring six fours along the way. The atmosphere around the ground continued to grow as the prospect of a three figures score for their retiring hero drew closer. On his debut in 2006, Cook had hit a century against India. 161 appearances later, if he were to repeat this feat, he would become just the fifth player in history to score a century in his first and last Test match.
Cook would continue to use his down the ground punch, this time off of Jadeja to bring him four more whilst moving his second wicket partnership with Ali up the 50. A handful of overs later with runs at a premium, the Essex opener would cash in after Jadeja dropped one of his deliveries too short from his perspective, dispatching the ball away to the rope for four more. The partnership would survive the session, going into tea on day one on 123/1. Cook tallied 66 from 177 balls with Ali taking 23 from 102 balls.
Ali lit up the first over following the restart. The Worcestershire man found the fence on the last ball after it clipped off his pads., moving his score to 27. Following a handful of singles and dots in their next several overs, England seemed to be in control. However, with Bumrah returning to the field for India, things were about to change. With the second ball of his 17th over, the Indian pacer shaped the ball back into Alastair Cook from outside his off stump. The ball clipped the inside edge of Cook’s bat, dragging it onto the middle stump, sending the bails flying. There would be no final century for Cook in this innings. The leaving legend had to go for 71 from 190 balls, scoring eight fours. Moans of disappointment rung out around the oval as the hero of the day fell. If he were to get his fairytale goodbye hundred, he would have to wait.
As heartbreaking as Cook’s dismissal was for the fans and his teammates, there was still a game to play. With England 133/2, the man who succeeded Cook as captain, Joe Root, was called upon to take his place at the crease. However, he would not remain there for long. The skipper was dismissed after just three balls for zero. The umpire called an LBW after an inswinger from Bumrah caught out the Yorkshireman. Bumrah singlehandedly changed the game’s momentum in only one over, eliminating both England’s hero and their captain in the process. Next up for England was Johnny Bairstow. The wicket-keeper knew he had to steady the ship for his team after two quick dismissals. However, four balls into the next over, Bairstow would be heading back the pavilion after knocking Sharma delivery to India’s wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant. Like Root before him, Bairstow was out for zero from three balls with the score 134/4.
Despite controlling the play for the majority of the day, England found themselves in freefall after their middle-order collapse. Thankfully for the home nation, Ben Stokes, their sixth man up, was able to buck the trend by getting passing zero and putting runs on the board. After managing to scrape the occasional run for a few overs, Stokes would find the boundary for the first time after driving a ball nicely through the open cover area. A few overs later, Ali would join the fun by picking up a boundary of his own with a well-timed cover drive. Not to be outdone by his partner, Stokes picked up another four after glancing one to fine leg in the following over.
Just as it looked like England had rediscovered their form, disaster struck. In the 78th over, Ravindra Jadeja’s delivery hit Stokes on the pad directly in front of the stumps. It did not take long for the umpire to raise the finger. Another one had fallen as Stokes had to go for only 11, leaving his side at 171/5. Jos Buttler was the next man to enter the fray. Moeen Ali gave the home fans a reason to cheer. His hard, grinding work was rewarded as he gained a half-century from 167. Unfortunately for the all-rounder, that would be his final total. A few overs later, he would edge a ball from Sharma, finding Pant’s gloves for the out.
England had suddenly fallen from 133/1 too 177/6. However, they would get a bit of luck as the fourth ball of this over would fly past the keeper for four byes. Their luck quickly ran out as Sam Curran, the next man up, accidentally nicked the ball of the toe end of his bat when trying to leave it. Pant capitalised on the mistake again. Sharma had struck again; Curran was out for zero from two balls, leaving England 181/7. The only saving grace England had was that Jos Buttler was still in, and he had the potential to add to their total. He would score his first boundary of the match, sending a lovely cover drive over the practice pitches for four. England managed to survive any further wicket loss going in at stumps at 198/7. Buttler finished the day on 11 from 31, with his new partner, Adil Rashid, scoring four from 25. At the close of play, David Lloyd described the performance so far as “tough going” when analysing England’s final score at the end of day one.
As play would begin on day two, commentator David Gower would say how “Jos Buttler as always seems to be the case this summer, very much the key as to what happens next for England.” However, it was Rashid that got the day up and running. After Buttler saw out a maiden over to start the day, Bumrah floated a loosener toward Rashid in the first ball of the second. The Yorkshireman sent it flying to the boundary through the covers for four. Like the previous day, runs were hard to come by for the home side. It took five overs for the next boundary with Rashid flicking Bumrah off his pads, scoring the second four of the morning. Rashid’s form was short-lived as two overs later as Bumrah would get his man. The ball swung in and smashed into Rashid’s pads, leaving the umpire no choice but to give him out. He was gone for 15 and England were 214/8.
Broad was now into the middle and England well into the tail. Bumrah nearly struck again two balls later, finding the edge of Jos Buttler’s bat. Luckily for the English wicket-keeper, the ball would fall short and wide of the slip cordon, bouncing through for four runs. Buttler would crash another delivery to the rope for four off Sharma next over, as the ball outside off got carved away.
Buttler and Broad would continue to frustrate the Indian bowling attack, surviving their shots and running singles to rotate the strike. The duo did not allow the bowlers to settle. Buttler would add to their woes by flicking off of his pads for another boundary in the 104th over. This shot brought England past 250 runs, giving them a slightly more defendable first innings score. Broad would join in on the Boundaries, playing a down the ground punch off Mohammed Shami’s bowling. The next over Buttler would whip a ball through square leg to bring up four more, moving the partnership between the two batsmen onto 50. This end of inning stand was invaluable to England. Buttler survived another scare as he once again edged wide of the slips with a loose drive. He would score his half-century during the same over, notching 51 from 84 balls, including five fours. England moved onto 278/8 at the end of the 109th over. This was extra special for Buttler, as this was a birthday 50. England would hit two more fours in the session. One smashed through the covers from Buttler and one edged over the Slips by Broad both off Sharma’s bowling. The two survived, going through to lunch with England sitting on 304/8 from 115 overs.
Following lunch, the bubble burst for England. Broad once again tried to look big, but KL Rahul had other plans. The Kings XI Punjab captain pulled off a sensational over-the-shoulder, forward diving catch in the deep from Jadeja’s bowling. Rahul’s spectacular effort meant that Broad had to depart for 38 from 59, leaving England 312/9. Typically, when James Anderson strolls out at number 11 for England, the innings does not have long left. Thankfully for the host nation, Broad and Buttler had crossed before the catch, meaning the latter was on strike. Buttler managed to guard the strike from over to over. However, at the start of the 121st over, the Lancashire man decided to get the innings moving. He sent the first ball of Bumrah’s overflying into the stands for six. He would swat a short delivery two balls later, once again sending it for a maximum.
Butler’s impressive last stand would come to an end the following over. After attempting to rotate the strike, he would edge a ball from Jadeja into the hands of Ajinkya Rahane at slip. The wicket-keeper batsmen finished 89 from 133, narrowly failing to reach a birthday century. His efforts gave England a far healthy final score of 332. Jadeja was a thorn in the home nation’s side, achieving India’s best bowling figures with 4-79. With their batsmen bowing out, it was England’s bowlers time to take centre stage.
India’s First Innings
Indian possessed an impressive batting order, with captain Virat Kohli being their most dangerous weapon. The ICC Men’s Cricketer of the Decade is widely considered one of the greatest batsmen of his generation in the all three formats of the sport, providing time and time again how devastating he can be when given a chance. England began their bowling attack with the tried and trusted duo of Anderson and Broad. The veteran pair were England’s most experienced bowlers, claiming over 1000 test wickets between them. India would have KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan walk out to the middle to open the innings. Throughout the series, both men had already shown that they could cause severe damage with the bat and looked to continue their form in the final game.
England wouldn’t have to wait long for some success. Anderson’s first ball was pushed through cover, bringing KL Rahul three runs. However, Broad’s first delivery was far more fruitful for the home nation an over later. The seam bowler sent an inswinger towards Dhawan, striking him directly on the pad. The umpire didn’t hesitate to send him on his way. India already found themselves 6/1, with Pujara the next man to the crease. Anderson, not long back from injury, withdrew from the attack after two overs. Ben Stokes was called upon to take his place in the firing line. The 2019 BBC Sports Personality of the Year’s first delivery did not go to plan, with Rahul sending the ball to the fence through cover. The Indian batsmen began to find their groove. Pujara would follow his partner’s example, drilling a Broad to delivery through the cover and finding the boundary himself, although, this boundary did require a massive slice of luck. An English fielder attempted to flick the ball back onto the field and stop the runs. Unfortunately for him, it would deflect off his ankle, knocking it over the rope. Rahul continued to take on Stokes, taking two more fours in the swing bowlers’ third and fourth over. India were 53/1 going into tea. Rahul and Pujara’s partnership was just three runs short of a 50, scoring 35 from 48 and 15 from 54 respectively.
It only took two balls for Pujara to bring up the 50 partnership, flicking Curran’s delivery through the off-side for four. The two batsmen would continue to build the score over the next few overs, moving to 70-1 by the end of the 22nd over. In the 23rd, England had a breakthrough. Sam Curran bowled a full delivery which nipped back on the line, nocking into offs ump and removing the bails, Rahul had to depart for 37 from 53, India were 70/2. Whilst England rejoiced at the wicket, Kohli would take to the field, putting fear in the fans and players alike. The captain immediately took control of the game, hitting boundaries off Curran and Ali, moving him to a quick-fire 15 from 21 balls. Pujara would join the fun once again, sending Ali for four as well in the same over.
Anderson returned to the England attack with the hopes of regaining authority of the game. Despite being sent four by Kohli off his toes, the veteran guided his country to consecutive two maidens before doing what he did best. An away swinger found Pujara’s bat’s edge. The slight clip redirected the ball into Bairstow’s Gloves for the out. Pujara has to go for 37 from 101, India were 101/3 and Anderson was one step closer to the record. The pace bowler was not done yet. One over later, he took another name. Ajinkya Rahane, who replaced Purjara, was his next victim. He was out for a duck after outside edging Anderson’s delivering, with Cook making the catch in the slips. Anderson’s quickfire double left India 103/4. The new partnership of Kohli and Hanuma Vihari pushed India through a potential early collapse. The duo settled in and began to rack up runs. The captain sent a short leg-side ball from Broad to the fence for four, whereas Vihari was blessed with some luck on a top edge, sending the ball over fine leg for six. The Andhra player followed that six up with four more a few balls later. Again, he would miscue down to fine leg before sending Curran down the ground for four more.
In the 47th Over, Kohli faced Stokes’ bowling, standing on 49 runs. The New Zealand-born Englishmen Pitched up a full delivery. Kohli would try to drive but overbalance, allowing the ball to find the edge before flying into the hands of Joe Root in the slips. England had dismissed India’s most significant threat. Kohli had to go one short of fifty, finishing on 49 from 70. It was Rishabh Pant’s job to replace the Superstar captain and continue what he had started., With India 154/5, they knew this could be a turning point. Pant made an impact quickly, pushing Stokes away off his pads fine for four.
Alastair Cook may have believed that he would not be in the spotlight since he was not batting, but this was not the case. Just one ball later, Stokes would find Pant’s bat’s edge. The ball went in the direction of first slip, where Cook would gratefully clutch the ball. Pant gone for five from eight and India, similar to England, were supering a small middle-order collapse, with their total at 160/6. The new man in for the away side, Ravindra Jadeja, managed to record a number boundaries before the close of play, but at the end of day two, India would walk in at stumps on 174/6. Vihari finished the day on 25 from 50, with Jadeja on eight from ten.
India started the day trailing England by 168 runs. The partnership of Jadeja and Vihari would continue to stick around, scoring multiple fours throughout the morning session, including one struck sweetly by Jadeja off his pads and an edge through the slip corden from Vihari. In just under 20 overs, India managed to reduce the deficit by 56 runs, bringing the total to 220/6. Vihari’s recorded his maiden test 50 on debut, having reached the score in just 104 balls while registering six fours and one six.
Jadeja followed up his teammates’ milestone by firmly cutting Stokes away for four at the start of the next over. As Moeen Ali came back into the attack, he would be swept to the fence by Vihari for four more as the partnership continued to grow. After given the change of end to bowl from, Ali found a way to disrupt the duo. The West-Midlander found the edge of the bat of Vihari, causing the ball to glide into the gloves of Bairstow. India decided to review the decision. However, the 3rd umpire didn’t have enough evidence to overturn, meaning the wicket stood. Vihari would depart for 56 from 124 ending his and Jadeja’s 77 run partnership, leaving India on 237/7. As Sharma came to the crease, he and Jadeja would see the away team through to lunch at 240/7.
As the afternoon session began, Jadeja and Sharma played conservatively, focusing on running ones and twos. After putting on 12, Sharma would meet his end to Ali. A tickle of an outside edge would find its way to Bairstow once again. Sharma had to walk back to the pavilion on four from 25. India was in trouble. They stood at 249/8 and quickly running out of Batsmen. Jadeja managed to tally a half-century from 113 balls, swinging his bat around in his glove, as is his tradition, to the crowd’s applause. Mohammed Shami, who joined the fray after Sharma’s dismissal, attempted to join in on the fun. The reverse swing specialist attempted to blast at one down the ground in the hopes of a boundary. However, the only thing he would find was Stuart Broad’s hands at mid-on. Rashid claimed the wicket and Shami had to go for one from five. India were 260/9 and still trailing by 72.
Jadeja continued to battle for his country. The Saurashtra player sent Anderson’s delivery back over his head for six before drilling a Broad ball down to fine leg with a big pull for the same outcome. Despite his continued boundaries, Jadeja would be let down by his partner for the innings’ final wicket. Bumrah wasn’t ready for a quick run called to guard the strike, finding himself well short of his ground as Bairstow whipped off the bails from Broads throw, out for 0 off 14. India finished the Innings on 292 all out. Jadeja efforts saw him hold on for an 86* off of 156 balls. Ali would end with the best bowling figures of 2-50. The crowds now being to jostle with anticipation, with England coming out for their second innings with a lead of 40, everyone was ready for the main event, Alastair Cook’s last outing for his country.Embed from Getty Images
England’s Second Innings
The crowd in attendance erupted in applause as the great Alastair Cook took to the field to bat for the last time in an England uniform. Once again, Kohli offered a handshake to the leaving legend before taking his guard in the middle. Cook and Jennings’ partnership started the opening overs slowly, leaving those watching worrying that Chef may end his international career with a duck. However, these fears were cast aside after whipping a shot of the pads, scoring his first runs of the innings. The India bowlers struggled to find a line, allowing Cook to turn away another ball off his pads through the leg side for four. The Indian attack did eventually start to get closer. Shami narrowly missed the edge of Cook on a few occasions, just avoiding finding a nick that would dismiss the Former England captain.
After Cook blocked one of Shami’s deliveries, the Essex player could not stop a laughing smile from appearing, looking down the ground at his opposition as if to say he had finally hit one properly. Nassar Hussain on cometary acknowledged this, expressing “great reaction from Cook! A big smile and a look at his bat as if to say ahh!, that’s what I use it for”. Despite the close calls and Shami causing issues after finally finding a good line and length for his deliveries, England would go in for tea on day three on 20/0, leading by 60. Both openers survived the first nine overs. Cook gained 13 from 32 whereas Jennings held in on seven from 22.
After returning from tea, Jennings and Cook likely focused on getting through the last session, remaining in at the close of play. Jennings would get a slice of luck not long after the break, barely avoiding a nick from another good line and length ball from Shami. Pant took his eye off the ball while fielding, allowing it to bounce off his gloves and run away for a soft four.
Shami would get the last laugh two overs later. The bowler delivered a similar ball, this time with some inswing. Jennings decide to leave it, which in hindsight was a colossal error. The ball hit the bails on the stump, scattering them across the pitch. Jennings would be the first casualty of this innings, departing for ten from 38. With the score 27/1, Moeen Ali was bought to the crease. The all-rounder chose to play a more aggressive style than he had in the first innings, showing his intent early with a slog sweep into the leg side off Jadeja for four. Despite this, England scoring would still be slow. Cook did not mind the gradual pace as he had the ability to play a smart style, waiting for his chances to come, unlike his partner. His patience paid off as he picked up a four from Shami, punching the ball back past him down for the boundary. In the 25th, Ali’s aggressive play caused him to attempt to hit a wide delivery. The ball found his bat’s edge, but luck was on his side like Jennings before him. It somehow flew through the hands of Rahul and the slip fielders, running away for four. Like Jennings, Ali’s luck would also run out. He tried to turn a ball into the leg side from Jadeja. However, he misread the ball’s flight and got bowled through the gate, destroying the middle stump. Ali had to go for 20 from 52, leaving England 62/2.
Following the dismissal, captain Joe Root joined Cook at the crease, determined to avoid a quick exit. When Jadeja offered him a wide ball, he would use his favourite shot, the late cut, to get himself two, get off the mark and avoid the pair. The captain would chip in with several boundaries in the following overs, including a repeat of his first shot for four, and a loose drive which narrowly avoided the slips and ran away for another four. He also produced a beautiful check drive down the ground on the very next ball. In the following over, Root read Bumrah’s inswing and primitively came down the ground to meet it, sending a shot racing through the leg side to the rope. After a poor first-inning performance, Root seemed intensely focused on putting on a far better outing.
Once again, England got lucky in the second to last over of the day’s play. A misread ball few over the top of the stumps, Root and Cook ran on the last ball of the day. Cook ordered his captain to stop when he attempted another run, a smart decision as Root had been run out twice already this series. Nassar Hussain on commentary joked that “Alastair Cook (said) I’m done today Joe.” The pair made it to stumps with Cook finishing the day on 46 from 125, with Root standing on 29 from 43. The partnership ended on 52 and England with a lead by 154 with a score of 114/2 going into day four.
The morning of day four brought many mixed emotions in the ground, anticipation, nervousness, sadness but most prominent was the overwhelming sense of excitement. Just four runs away from a farewell half-century, Alastair Cook took to the field for the 291st and final time.
The crowd rose to their feet once again, giving the legend a well-deserved standing ovation. Cook may have been nervous overnight being so close to 50, but he wouldn’t show. On the first ball of the second over of the day, Chef would smash the ball from Bumrah off his pads and find four through square leg. He had now earned a half-century in both of his innings, moving onto 51 from 127 balls. Cook was clearly in the mood for runs, as in the next over, he turned a loose ball from Jadeja through the covers with a strong drive. Despite this, the England partnership was still taking their time with the innings to avoid mistakes, only striking when the time was right. Cook’s patience paid off as he capitalised on a short ball by Jadeja, picking up another four. Root would follow suit, sweeping a ball through the leg side for another boundary of an outside delivery, again from Jadeja.
Like in the previous innings, England rode their luck. A Jadeja delivery forced Root to edge a ball into the slip. Fortunately for the Yorkshireman, it hit the edge of the fielder’s hands and ran away. After surviving the scare, Root would use his favourite shot, chopping the ball through backward point, on the last ball of the next over for four more. These runs saw the captain joined his partner in achieving his half-century, moving to 52 from 81 and England on 167/2.
A few overs later, Cook would enhance his already incredible legacy. The legend knocked a ball into the leg side for one. Whilst this typically would not be newsworthy, This saw him surpass Kumar Sangakkara as the fifth most successful test run-scorer of all time. This landmark moment was followed by tremendous applause from all corners of the ground as expected. However, Cook did not celebrate. It was clear he had another goal in mind. He wanted that century.
At the other end, Root was leaving his mark on the game. As Jadeja sent his delivery down, the captain would skip down the pitch to meet it. This gave him room to free his leavers and send the ball flying back where it came from for six. Over the next few overs, Root and Cook would continue to put runs on the board with multiple fours. Root smashed a Shami ball away through front of square before the duo both pick on Jadeja two overs later. Cook sent one short and wide through square and Root turning one from outside off against the spin to fine leg.
It seemed that both batsmen were racing each other to the 100. The partnership was racking up points rapidly, passing a century combined, but both wanted the individual honour. Bumrah was brought back into the attack for India with the hope of stopping them reaching it. Cook, who had moved his total up to 91, produced a check drive off a Brumrah ball down the ground for four, leaving him firmly in control and just five runs from history.
The crowd knew the moment was close. The atmosphere at the Oval was a mix of nerves and excitement. Cook, now sitting on 96, was so close to history. In what is now a legendary yet bizarre moment the former captain turned Jadeja’s delivery into the off-side. The ball travelled toward Bumrah at deep point, with the batsmen knowing they would only likely squeeze one run out of it. However, Bumrah horrendously overthrew the ball past the stumps. With India not positioning anyone on that area of the field, the ball ran away to the boundary. Since the original delivery came off of Cook’s bat, they counted as his runs. In perhaps the strangest way possible, Cook gained his farewell century. In achieving this incredible feat, he also became just the fifth batsman to score a century in his first and last Test match and the second batsman to score twin fifties in his first and final Test. The ground erupted in celebration and emotion, showering the English legend with applause as he raised his bat to acknowledge and thank those in attendance. Root followed this heartwarming moment by adding another four before heading to lunch on day four. Cook sat on 103 from 222 with Root on 92 from 132 as England totalling 243/2 at the break, leading by 273 runs. While departing the field, the entire India team shook hands with Cook in a great sign of sportsmanship and respect.
It wouldn’t take long for England to find the boundary after returning to action. During the first over, Cook produced one of his routine shots, slicing away Shami’s delivery with a drive and earning him four. Root, on the other hand, had to rely on luck. Sitting on 94, he would edge a ball from Shami to slip. Pant dove into the vision of his teammate Pujara at first slip. This distraction allowed the ball slipped through the latter’s fingers, keeping England’s captain at the crease and earning two extra runs. A few overs later, the partnership would put up a double century after Cook turned a short ball outside the off-stump from Shami, behind square for four. With the duo passing 200 runs combined and Cook claiming a personal 100 before lunch, It was now Root’s turn to achieve a milestone. The skipper claimed his century after tapping the ball into the off-side for a quick run. This achievement marked his 14th in an England shirt. Nobody could have written the story any better from an English perspective as both their current and former captains reached 100 on the latter’s final test match.
Root was not content with just a century as he continued the partnerships fantastic second innings form. He moved his country onto 271/2 after driving a Shami ball through the covers for four. The boundaries would continue as Cook rocked back and drove a short delivery from Jadeja for four. The English legend continued to assert his will on Jadeja in the bowlers next over, pushing a ball through the covers before finding the rope yet again two balls later, sending the delivery wide of slip to the boundary. In the 88th over, Cook angled another ball from the Saurashtra all-rounder past third man, bringing England’s score past 300.
At times, Root had ridden his luck during this innings, but it was time for it to run out. The England captain attempted a slog-sweep off a ball from Vihari, which did not quite have the legs and fell down the throat of Pandya at deep midwicket. Vihari’s first-ever test wicket had broken England’s impressive partnership. The skipper had to depart for 125 from 190 balls, leaving his country on 321/3 with a 361 lead.
The classic saying in cricket is that wickets bring wickets. Cook prepared top duel Vihari after crossing on the last ball. The off-break bowler sent a ball short of the length. The Englishman rocked back for the cut but misread the bounce, finding a top edge straight into Pant’s gloves. Cook fell forward onto his bat when he realised what had happened. The show was over, the lights were off, and it was time for his curtain call. Nasser Hussain on commentary somberly informed the audience, “For one final time, Alastair Cook has been dismissed in international cricket.” The ground filled with groans of disappointment before immediately changing into a standing ovation from England and India’s fans alike. Every member of the Indian team offered a handshake as the English icon took a slow walk off. The advertising boards around all displayed the same message, simply stating ‘Thank you Chef’. Cook left the field with arms raised, his bat in one hand and helmet in the other., finishing his swansong on 147 from 268.
In just two balls, England has lost both their set batsmen. Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes took over for the home nation with the score 321/4. Bairstow would get off the mark, avoiding a pair by pushing a ball from Jadeja wide of the keeper on the back foot for one. Next over, he would follow this with a cut for a short wide ball of Shami for his first boundary of the innings. The wicket-keeper-batsman followed this up by lofting a ball over mid-on from Jadeja in the next over. Bairstow made his intentions clear. He was there to hit big and add to the tally. Stokes joined the party by sending Shami last two deliveries of the 99th over for fours.
England’s ginger middle-order pairing was accelerating the innings. Bairstow would again send Shami to the rope after another short wide gift from the bowler. However, Shami would make up for his mistake. The Bengal bowler delivered a much straighter delivery. The Yorkshireman looked to drive but only connected with an inside edge, sending the ball crashing into his leg stump. Bairstow was dismissed for 18 from 27 with England now sat 355/5, leading by 395.
Jos Buttler, who had an impressive first inning performance, was the next man up for England. The Lancashire player arrived with the same attacking mindset as his predecessor. However, on just the second ball he faced. he had to walk. Shami’s delivery found outside the bat’s edge, chipping the ball into the air and back into the bowler’s hands, who made up the ground to point for the catch. Buttler departed for nothing. Sam Curran took over at the crease. The new partnership managed to survive until tea, with England going in on 364/6, holding a 404 run lead. Stokes held strong on 13 from 20 while Curran had picked up seven from 15.
The plan was clear for England in the evening session. They aimed to put as many points on the board as possible and declare. Stokes showed his intent early in the session with a well-timed shot to mid-on form a Shami delivery for a boundary. The fours kept coming as Curran reached the rope of a Jadeja delivery through the point the next over. Stokes notched another four at the start of the 109th over, whipping the ball over the slips for the boundary. Stokes treated this inning as a T20 game, taking big shots and collecting boundaries. The Durham player sent the first ball of the next over crashing into the stands down the ground for six. Two balls later, he directed the ball through extra cover for four. Stokes’ was on fire but burned out in the next delivery. The all-rounder sent Jadeja’s delivery to deep midwicket in hopes for another boundary. Unfortunately for the Englishman, Rahul would catch it before the ball reached the rope. Stokes’ cameo came to an end, gone for 37 from 36, leaving England 397/7.
Rashid took to the field following Stokes’ dismissal. The leg spinner bought England’s score past 400 with an inventive shot through the covers. He slapped the ball down next to his feet and watched it sail to the boundary. Rashid claimed two more quick fours in the following over, hammering one down the ground and through point. Curran followed suit with the first ball of the next over, slamming the delivery over extra cover for six. The Surrey man attempted to replicate this shot on the next delivery. However, this time the ball was sliced into the air. Pant managed to track and catch it, dismissing Curran for 21 from 30.
With England leading by 463 runs, captain Joe Root decided that was enough for his side. He called the batsmen in, declaring on 423/8. Rashid survived until the end, earning 20 from 14 balls. Vihari would finish with India’s best bowling figures, managing to achieve 3-37.
India’s Second Innings:
No team had ever successfully chased a score as high as England managed to put up. If India were to get a result from this game, they would have to make history. Their openers, Rahul and Dhawan, needed to get off to a strong start if they stood a chance. Incredibly though, by the end of the third over, the duo was already dismissed. After Anderson and Broad restricted the partnership to just one run in their opening overs, the former took the innings’ first wicket. The pace bowler trapped Dhawan in front of the stumps on the over’s third delivery. The ball rocking into his pad and the finger went up, Dhawan was gone for just a singular run. Things went from bad to worse as Pujara, the third man in India’s order, suffered the same fate on the last ball of the over. Another questionable LBW decision saw him gone for a duck. Anderson moved onto 563 test wickets with these two dismissals, tying Glenn McGrath as the most successful fast bowler in history.
After that disastrous over, India turned to their captain and danger man, Virat Kohli, to help steady the ship. The superstar faced off against Broad for his first ball. The Nottinghamshire native delivery found the edge of Kohli’s bat, deflecting into the path of Bairstow. India looked on with horror as Kohli was dismissed for a golden duck, leaving the away side 2/3.
The top-order collapse was damming for the Indian team. Their improbable chase seemed impossible now. Rahane was the next man up for the freefalling visitors. The former CEAT Indian Cricketer of the Year managed to build a small partnership with Rahul, with the latter scoring three fours in three overs before Rahane finding the boundary himself.
Rahul’s newfound scoring form continued as he hit two more fours from Anderson’s firth over. The first coming after a short delivery was edged over the corden with the second running through third man. Despite the scoring, India was still living dangerously. Rahane rode his luck in the 16th over after blocking an Ali delivery downwards. The ball’s backspin caused it almost to hit the stumps, missing by a narrow margin.
Rahul continued to frustrate England’s bowlers, sending two more balls to the boundary, this time from Ben Stokes. Rahane was just able to survive the last ball of the day as he barely avoided his shot being caught by Cook at short leg. India finished the day on 58/3, chasing 405 to win. Rahul managed an impressive 46 from 51 whereas Rahane gained ten from 47. As the English fielders headed towards the pavilion, the crowd once again raised to their feet to honour Alastair Cook for not only what he achieved on the day but to celebrate his entire career.
On the morning of the fifth and final day, India’s overnight partnership continued where they left off. Rahul clipped Anderson’s delivery off his pads in the first over of the day, sending the ball rolling through square leg to bring up his 50 from just 57 balls. He would continue his fantastic display, striking yet another boundary, this time from Broad, in the 24th over. The Indian partnership continued to build their score, looking to strike at a fast rate, with Rahane contributing another four after sending the ball through mid-off off from Curran. In the 34th over, Rahul drove an Ali delivery towards the rope, bringing the partnership score up to 100. After his partner struck another boundary, Rahane used the following over to hit Curran for back-to-back fours, both through the leg side.
Like all good things, Rahane and Rahul’s partnership would finally come to an end. Rahane toe-ended an Ali delivery into the air before dropping into Jennings’ hands. The Mumbai man departed for 37 from 106 balls, leaving India 120/4, trailing by 344 runs. Just as in England’s second inning, wickets brought wickets. Ben Stokes returned to the attack to face the newest man to the crease, Hanuma Vihari. On the fourth ball of his over, the English all-rounder found a fine edge off Vihari’s bat. Bairstow would graciously make the catch once again, dismissing Vihari for 0 off of 6.
Rahul may have had multiple partner changes, with Rishabh Pant now joining him at the crease, but his scoring form refused to be affected by it. India’s wicket-keeper sent Ali for back-to-back fours before obliterating Stokes in the following over. The Karnataka star smashed Stokes’ first delivery of the over deep extra cover for six. He followed this by notching two more fours in the same over. This glut of runs was enough to earn Rahul his century, putting up 101 from 118.
Stokes continued to struggle against Rahul. The Englishmen once again gave up a four in the 43rd over after the ball threaded the needle between two men at backward point. Pant must have been watching his partner closely as he launched the last ball of the following over from Ali straight back down the ground for six. The visitor’s partnership managed to survive until lunch, walking in with Indian 167/5 after scoring 109 runs in the session. However, they still trailed by a massive 297. Rahul came into the break on 108 from 126 with Pant tallying 12 from 22.
The next session was more of the same for India, starting exactly how the last one finished. The first over may have been quiet, but regular service resumed after Pant dispatched a short wide ball from Rashid through point for another boundary. The Delhi wicket-keeper-batsman continued to bully Rashid whenever he stepped up to bowl. Pant sent a short over mid-off against the spin to the rope in his next over before picking on him again to bring up the 200 for India. The scoring showed no signs of slowing as both Pant and Rahul picked up boundaries from Ali in the next over. Ben Stokes came back into the attack, looking to atone for his pre-lunch form. Unfortunately for the New Zealand-born Englishman, he was lit up once again, with Pant claiming two boundaries in his first over. The second of these fours, a clip him over midwicket, brought up the 100 partnership between the batsman, with India now 221/5.
The required score to win was now also below 250. England did manage to claw back a few overs, restricting the boundaries, getting a maiden and slowing the run rate. However, even their best efforts could not stop Pant from reaching his half-century from 78. The boundaries flood gate was re-opened after six overs without one, with Pant sending a Root delivery through the covers. In the England captain’s next over, it was Rahul’s turn to take him to the rope in a similar way to how is partner did. Pant decided that it was time once again to tee off, sending Stokes for three fours in the same over. This impressive batting display helped the required runs needed for an India victory drop below 200.
The deadly partnership of Rahul and Pant caused England to reevaluate their approach. Despite looking like victory was all-but assured after their second innings, they somehow found themselves battling a real comeback threat, with the two batsmen at the crease the catalysts. The home nation knew that breaking the duo was critical in order to avoid an embarrassing defeat. After Pant flicked a ball towards Jennings at midwicket, it looked as if England would get the much-needed breakthrough. However, the shot flew narrowly passed the outstretched fielder, finding yet another boundary for wicket-keeper-batsman.
Despite his partner starting as the more prolific of the duo, it was clear that that mantle now belonged to Pant. His scoring surge was not without risk though, as the Delhi man would be lucky not to be dismissed after edging a delivery. Somehow, the ball flew through the gap at gully and would run for four. Although India was once again scoring fast, England’s chances were coming. After Anderson gave England a moment of respite by bowling a maiden, Rashid’s return to the attack in the following over did not go to plan. Pant welcomed the leg spinner back by smashing a delivery for six over midwicket.
Anderson once again used his experience to keep Rahul quiet to earn another maiden before Rashid would once again give up a six to Pant after an airborne shot to the legside. This boundary brought up Pant’s maiden century for his country as he moved to 101 runs from 117. The two sides came into tea after yet another maiden from Anderson brought the session to an end. India dominated the afternoon, firmly placing England on the back foot and going in just 166 from victory with a score of 298/5. Rahul racked up 142 from 210, whereas Pant earned 101 from 118.
Pant started the evening session how he ended the last one, tormenting Rashid. Indian’s man-on-form once again claimed a six from the Yorkshireman, sending a delivery straight back over the bowler’s head before flying into the stands. Rashid must have been sick of the sight of the Indian Batsmen as he would give up yet another boundary to the Delhi man before Rahul would take his first four of the session by chipping an Anderson delivery over midwicket.
After being humiliated by his opposition throughout the entire inning, Rashid looked exact revenge during his 11th over. The English leg spinner delivered a ball into the rough outside Rahul’s leg stump before it ripped out of the surface, remarkably directing it from outside leg stump to hitting off. This incredible piece of bowling would have made the great Shane Warne proud and was easily the best delivery of the series. The impressive 204 run Indian partnership had been slain. Rahul departed one short of a 150, reaching 149 from 224. The chasing side now sat on 325/6, still needed 141 for victory.
Rashid’s greatest nemesis of the innings, Rishabh Pant, was still at the crease. However, he would not remain there for much longer. On the last ball of Rashid’s next over, India’s dangerman looked to go big again, but this time, there was no boundary to celebrate. The ball did not have enough on it, dropping to Ali’s hand at long-off. Rashid’s redemption arc was complete. Just like that, India’s two most significant threats of the innings had gone, as had any realistic shot of winning the game. Pant finished his impressive outing on 114 from 146, with India now 328/7, trailing by 138.
With the game almost secured, it was clear that England’s plan now was to let Anderson keep bowling at one end to see if he could grab that elusive record-breaking wicket. India was determined to not merely lay down for the hosts, with Sharma sweeping a Rashid ball for four more. His efforts seemed to be in vain and Curran, who replaced Rashid in the attack, found a tickle of Sharma’s bat on the last delivery of his first over, sending the ball through to the keeper. Sharma had to walk on five from 24. Indian fell to 336/8 with the game undoubtedly nearing its finale.
Anderson and Curran continued to lead England’s attack. The latter failed to maintain the same control as his veteran partner, allowing Jadeja to find the boundary after whipping the ball through midwicket. The Surrey man must have taken that shot personally as he sent Jadeja back to the pavilion on the following ball. The all-rounder’s delivery found Jadeja’s edge with an away swinger. Bairstow was there to make a diving catch. Jadeja’s day came to an end, gaining 13 from 46, leaving India on 345/9. The away side still needed 119 to win, while England just needed one wicket to end the series.
There was a sense of anticipation and hope around the ground as James Anderson began the next over. All eyes were England’s legendary bowler to see if he could take Glenn McGrath’s record, wrapping up this already-historic test match in the process. It only took the Lancashire man three balls to send the crowd wild, delivering an inswinger which pitched up. Shami was merely a spectator as the ball cannoned into middle stump. India’s Reverse swing specialist was dismissed for 0 from three with India all out for 345. Anderson had done it. His 564th test wicket sealed England’s victory and saw him crowned as the leading wicket-taker in test match history amongst fast bowlers.
James Anderson and Alastair Cook embraced on the field to celebrate the final wicket. The pair of best friends both soaked in the atmosphere from the roaring English crowd and cherished the final moments they would share the same field. After an incredible game that included multiple records being broken, Anderson would raise the ball towards the sky, acknowledging his achievement and thanking the Barmy army, before leaving the field with Cook. The victory meant that England had sealed a 4-1 series win, giving Alistair Cook, one of the greatest ever to wear the English whites, the send-off he deserved.Embed from Getty Images
Alistair Cook’s final match went down in history as one of England’s greatest test matches, not just because of Chef’s farewell, but because of the dramatic way the game played out, coming down to the wire. Multiple records were broken, plenty of runs scored by both sides, and the fans inside the Oval were treated to an incredible advert for the game through all four innings. In a post-match interview with Ian Ward, James Anderson stated that he was “Happy that Cooky was on the field to see the wicket. It’s been a tough week”. When asked about Cook’s finale, the newly-crowned record-breaker emotionally said, “He’s my best mate. He’s been brilliant, just to be there for me all the time”. Alastair Cook was unsurprisingly named man of the match. The departing legend said in the post-match interview that “(This was the) most amazing week, one you couldn’t have scripted. Just been amazing, great to contribute to an England win, and win the series 4-1”. He followed this by proudly declaring that “This week can’t be beaten; I can walk away with my head held high.”
Cook would finish his England career with 58 fifties and 33 hundred. No man had ever reached that many the centuries in English history. The legendary Chef earned an incredible overall run score of 12,472, the fifth-highest in test match history. He was also tied in 13th for scoring the most double-hundreds, notching five.
The 2012 Wisden Cricketer of the Year also became the 5th batsmen and first Englishman to score a century in his first and last test match. While earing this accomplishment, he also became the first-ever batsman to achieve a 50 followed by a 100 in his first and final test match. Remarkably, Cook earned both of these against the same opposition, India. As of this article, Cook is England’s highest-ever test run-scorer and the only English batsman to score over 10,000 test runs. The Essex man is the only opening batsmen from any country to reach that same landmark. Additionally, he is the highest-scoring left-handed batsmen in test history.
In the year following his retirement from cricket, Alastair Cook was knighted by the Queen of England in 2019, making his full title Sir Alastair Cook. However, the English fans prefer to honour him by his nickname, commonly calling him Sir Chef. This name was a fitting moniker for a man who had served up some of the most delicious performances over the years. Cricket fans will remember Alistair Cooks’ style of play, performances, and perhaps most importantly, his personality for years to come. His impact on English cricket, and the sport in general, will never be forgotten and will forever be known as one of the greatest of all time.