Cook stands firm for England in 100th Oval Test

first_imgLONDON, England (Reuters) – Alastair Cook ensured a quality launch to The Oval’s 100th Test with an innings of familiar patience and defiance that guided England to 171 for four against South Africa on an absorbing but rain-disrupted opening day of the third Test yesterday.Former captain Cook stood firm as the historic occasion was frustratingly interrupted by four stoppages, resisting throughout the day to finish unbeaten on 82 as wickets tumbled around him.The 32-year-old negotiated a demanding examination from a South African pace attack inspired particularly by two-wicket Vernon Philander, who also spent 50 minutes off the field with a stomach upset, to close in on a 31st Test hundred.With the four-Test series locked at 1-1, the visitors made light of losing the toss with Cook, who survived 178 balls, and Philander, who had excellent figures of 2-17 from 12 overs, proving the central figures.Electing to bat, England captain Joe Root gave his predecessor Cook the chance to impress again in the landmark Test at the south London venue which has become one of cricket’s most historic grounds over 137 years.The Oval joined another London venue Lord’s and Australia’s Melbourne and Sydney Cricket Grounds in hosting a century of Tests.In a new-look England side, featuring three new caps, batsmen Tom Westley and Dawid Malan and seamer Toby Roland-Jones, it was old stager Cook who summoned all his skill and resolve to anchor the innings in conditions assisting the Proteas’ pacemen.In an awkward morning session in overcast conditions and with a green tinge to the pitch, South Africa’s attack did not initially pose the menace they had shown in their 340-run victory at Trent Bridge, which levelled the seriesCAPABLE SUPPORTCook was given capable support by Essex county colleague Westley in a half-century stand before lunch but the newcomer departed for 25 straight after the resumption, pushing hard at Chris Morris to edge to second slip.Westley had impressed after Keaton Jennings was again found wanting, prodding tentatively at Philander to be caught at third slip for a duck in the fourth over.Cook, on 28, survived an lbw review, the faintest of inside edges off Morris sparing him, but otherwise looked his usual model of serenity as he made it to an early lunch, after two rain stoppages, on 34, with England 62 for one.The South Africans imposed more pressure on the resumption with Philander dismissing the dangerous-looking Root for 29, thanks to a dazzling, diving one-handed catch from wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock.Kagiso Rabada, back in the team after suspension, then sent debutant Malan packing for one with a lovely inswinging yorker.Still, though, Cook ploughed on after another rain break, maintaining his focus to bring up his half-century off 128 balls with a handsome cut for four off Philander.Tea was taken early at 149 for four after another stoppage and though Cook and Ben Stokes repaired some of the damage with an unbroken 51-run partnership for the fifth wicket, a fascinating day’s play ended up being truncated by another downpour.ENGLAND 1st inningsA. Cook not out 82K. Jennings c Elgar b Philander 0T. Westley c du Plessis b Morris 25J. Root c de Kock b Philander 29D. Malan b Rabada 1B. Stokes not out 21Extras: (b-7, lb-3, w-3) 13Total: (for 4 wickets, 59 overs) 171Fall of wickets: 1-12, 2-64, 3-113, 4-120.Bowling: M. Morkel 16-4-48-0, V. Philander 12-5-17-2 (w-1), K. Rabada 13-4-32-1, K. Maharaj 7-1-16-0, C. Morris 11-1-48-1 (w-2).last_img read more

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David Flatman column: Physical violence? It’s one Lawes for one, and one for another

first_imgThis feature appears in the current edition of Sport magazine. Download the free iPad app from the Apple Newsstand, and follow on twitter @sportmagukI don’t want to put a dampener on your weekend, but there’s no way this one will be as good as the last. I was at Twickenham last Saturday, watching as the most dramatic day in Home Nations rugby unfolded – and, even for an ex-pro largely immune to the emotions that go hand in hand with these occasions, it was one of the best sporting spectacles I can remember.For me, though, the results weren’t the most interesting part. The two most interesting and contrasting sporting reactions came indeed from Twickenham, as England beat France, but also at Anfield, as Liverpool faced Manchester United.Steven Gerrard, unarguably a legend of the English game, came off the bench and was red-carded for a silly lash of the boot within a minute. After the game he publicly apologised to the fans, but by then the vitriol had started. You can imagine what folk were tapping into their iPhones from the sofa across various social media outlets as Gerrard traipsed off, and it wasn’t nice.The rugby, conversely, produced a piece of entirely legal violence that shook the sporting world. England lock Courtney Lawes hit French fly half Jules Plisson so hard I honestly thought he might not get up without some sort of portable winch system being employed. It looked lethal. But it was not against the laws of the game.I realise the incidents are entirely different: one was petulant and illegal while the other was perfectly timed and very much allowed, but it’s what the reactions tell us about how we view our respective national sports that interests me.Gerrard was hammered for letting emotion take over. As it happens, I like having it confirmed that even the bona fide elite are fallible, just like us. But the football-watching public feels no sympathy. He let us down, so hang him out to dry.One respected journalist took to Twitter and declared Lawes’ tackle illegal and worthy of punishment. He was instantly – and sportingly – rounded on by a pride of former pros and a large number of the public who disagreed entirely. Yes, it was dangerous – but rugby is desperate to retain what makes it so special and, admittedly, dangerous. Trying to hurt opposing players legally has, however difficult it is to hear, always been part of the game. Just as it used to be in football.I love football, but resent lots about what it has become. Gerrard made a mistake and was battered. Lawes made a million mums wince and yelp, but was defended to the end. I like that. 1 David Flatman column: Physical violence? It’s one Lawes for one, and one for another last_img read more

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