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Alistair Cook helps England demoralize hapless Indian attack

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Andy Flower’s men revelled on the second day at Edgbaston with another magnificent batting display against helpful Indian bowling. Alistair Cook took full advantage, finishing unbeaten on 182 as England racked up 372 runs in as one sided a session you’ll ever see between these two test nations. If Duncan Fletcher had any excuses for his side’s inability with the bat, he could not defend his bowlers, who were firmly put to the sword by England’s top five batsmen.

The signs had been ominous for the Indians yesterday, when Strauss and Cook were largely untroubled despite the England seamers bowling their opponent’s out cheaply for 224. The absence of Zaheer Khan was magnified further as Sreensanth struggled with his line and run up, bowling three no balls in one over. Somehow, this was causing Amit Mishra (yes, a legspinner) similar problems after lunch, as he had to endure the embarrassment of bowling a nine-ball over. The openers soon put on a hundred run partnership, with Cook reaching a patient fifty, restricted solely because of Kumar’s probing outswing.

Nobody looked more surprised when a wicket fell, than the bowler, Mishra, when Strauss was bowled around his legs for 87. The wait continues (22 innings) since Strauss’ last test century, but he can be satisfied with his first meaningful contribution of the summer. However, he’ll regret not taking advantage of buffet bowling to the extent Cook did. Umpire Simon Taufel may also regret his decision not to check for a no-ball, as Mishra over-stepped to dismiss the England captain.

This moment was insignificant in the outcome of the days play, as Cook continued to clip boundaries off his hip and drive wide deliveries through the covers. Ishant Sharma was brought into the attack in an attempt to use his height to unsettle Ian Bell. Bell was far from intimidated, and hit three fours in the paceman’s introductory over, in aggressive form following his century at Trent Bridge. The Warwickshire batsmen’s approach gave India a golden opportunity off Sreesanth’s bowling, yet Dravid dropped a regulation catch at first slip. This proved to be only a minor reprieve, as Bell was dismissed moments later.

After Cook brought up his 19th test ton, with a single off Kumar, the temperamental swing bowler produced a fine delivery, knocking over Bell’s offstump in the process. Kevin Pietersen had the freedom he and England fans love: playing expansive shots from the moment he arrived. He hit five boundaries within his first 30 balls, including a maximum off Mishra, which if middled, would have gone out of the ground. England posted 319-2 at Tea, with Pietersen unbeaten on 36, alongside Cook with 129 to his name.

If there was any hope of India improving their inaccurate bowling or shoddy fielding in the evening session, it was eradicated in a matter of minutes, as Pietersen dominated the strike, bringing up his fifty with a boundary to third man. Cook also reached another milestone, reaching his fifth test score over 150 with a powerful pull shot off the raging Sreesanth. A brutal stand of 122 for the third wicket ended, when Pietersen was adjudged leg before when advancing towards Kumar. The former England Captain looked slightly bemused, but hawk-eye proved that Steve Davis was correct in making this bold decision.

Minor relief soon turned to further agony for Kumar and India, as Morgan scored two boundaries in his first four balls, from bowling like his fellow compatriots. Morgan was fortunate to remain unbeaten at the close, after being dropped twice, from Sreensanth and Dravid respectively. The latter threw down his cap in disgust, capturing the frustration and disbelief that is so prominent in the Indian camp from being thoroughly outplayed in what was predicted to be an evenly contested series. To say that Raina looked India’s most dangerous bowler after Praveen Kumar, reflects the mediocrity of India’s attack, as Sharma, Sreensanth and Mishra all conceded over 100 runs, at more than four runs an over. It also suggests the challenge that lies ahead, with Swann licking his lips at the sight of significant turn on just the second day.

England are certain to score heavily again tomorrow, with Bopara, Prior, Bresnan and Broad keen to bolster the hosts’ 256 run lead. Add to that a batsman with the highest amount of runs scored in 2011 unbeaten on 182, with only a jaded and ineffective bowling line up in his way. Surely an innings victory for England is the only possible result?

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