Cook double century puts England in command
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Alastair Cook struck a masterful, unbeaten double-century to drive England into a position of dominance on 491 for nine at the end of day three of the fourth Ashes Test on Thursday.
The former England captain strode off the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 244 not out, the highest ever score by a touring batsman, having pushed his side to a first innings lead of 164 runs.
Stuart Broad provided gallant support with a swashbuckling 56, sharing a 100-run partnership to crush the spirits of a demoralised Australian attack.
The urn may be gone with England an irretrievable 3-0 down in the series, but Joe Root’s team will savour the finest day of their campaign and are well-placed to grab a consolation win.
Cook smashed a straight drive past bowler Jackson Bird for his 23rd four to raise his fifth double-century in 360 balls, triggering a standing ovation from the crowd of 61,839.
It was not a chanceless innings, with Australia captain Steve Smith dropping him on 66 on day two and again on 153 after lunch.
The pitch was a batsman’s paradise and the Australian attack shorn of injured spearhead Mitchell Starc.
But England’s most prolific run-scorer, under fire after an underwhelming series so far, may remember few more gratifying innings in his career of 151 Tests.
Broad was brave in support, wearing a short-pitched battering before paying Australia’s quicks back in a swashbuckling innings which included eight fours and a six.
He bookended his fifty with two fours off Pat Cummins before holing out for 56 with a miscued pull that was caught in the deep by a diving Khawaja.
The catch was awarded after lengthy review by the third umpire, even though the ball appeared to have slipped from Khawaja’s grip and brushed the turf as he rolled over.
England had resumed on 360 for six after tea, with Cook having moved past Shivnarine Chanderpaul to seventh on the all-time Test runs list.
His batting partner Woakes fell for 26 in the second over after the interval, gloving a catch behind from a clumsy attempt at a pull shot.
Debutant Tom Curran added only four runs before edging Hazlewood to Paine, the wicket confirmed on review after umpire Kumar Dharmasena failed to register the nick.
Broad came to the wicket to be hit in the shoulder by Josh Hazlewood off the third ball he faced but weathered the barrage and slogged three boundaries to help push England past 400.
England’s batting had been brittle throughout the series, but for once the wickets fell slowly rather than in clumps.
Cook and Root had built a 138-run partnership before the England captain fell for 61 in the morning, miscuing a pull shot straight to Lyon at deep square leg.
Dawid Malan squandered his wicket for 14 when he failed to review an lbw decision despite hitting the ball from seamer Josh Hazlewood.
It was the second England wicket to fall lbw with a nick in the innings, with number three James Vince failing to review his dismissal on day two.
Lyon struck twice after lunch to reduce England to 307 for six, with Jonny Bairstow (22) and Moeen Ali (20) both falling to poor shot selection.
Having dismissed Moeen for the sixth time in the series, Lyon gave the all-rounder a generous verbal spray as he trudged off after driving in the air to Shaun Marsh at short leg.
Cook and Woakes steadied England with a vital 59-run partnership that pushed them past Australia’s first innings 327.