MELBOURNE: Alastair Cook reeled off a record-breaking double century to put England in full control of the fourth Ashes Test with a formidable 164-run innings lead in Melbourne on Thursday.
The phlegmatic opener emphatically bounced back after a lean run of scores to finish the day unconquered on 244 off 409 balls. At the close, England were 491 for nine.
Along the way, Cook surpassed the highest score by a visiting batsman in a Test match at the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground, bettering the 208 by West Indian great Viv Richards in 1984.
He earlier bettered Wally Hammond’s 200 set back in 1928 as the highest Test score at the MCG by an Englishman.
Cook’s fifth double-century in 151 Test matches also catapulted him above West Indian Brian Lara to become the sixth highest run-getter in Test cricket with 11,956.
“It’s probably one of the more emotional (ones) from where I’d been on this tour,” Cook admitted.
“It meant a lot last night and then today I was quite proud that I managed to back it up after all the emotion came out yesterday to get a real big one for the team was really important.
“It’s just a shame it’s three or four weeks too late. I’ll have to live with that for a long time, but it’s nice to score a few.”
Australia, who already have won back the Ashes with an unassailable 3-0 lead, looked unable to stem the flow of runs in the final session as Stuart Broad supported Cook to take the game away from the hosts.
– ‘We’re being outplayed’ –
Coach Darren Lehmann virtually conceded Australia could not win even with two days remaining, meaning hopes of a 5-0 series whitewash were over.
“We are just being outplayed by a better side at the moment,” Lehmann said. “We are 164 runs behind, we would have to score 450 runs in a day, we have to worry about getting past them first.”
Broad, who survived a series of hair-raising short-pitched balls at the onset of his innings, thrived in his partnership with Cook, pushing the tourists close to 500 on a lifeless pitch.
It needed multiple replays before Broad was finally given out for 56 off 63 balls to a sprawling outfield catch by Usman Khawaja off Pat Cummins, ending a demoralising 100-run stand off 110 balls with Cook.
Cook cashed in on two dropped catches by Australia skipper Steve Smith along the way to add to the home side’s misery.
Smith, who dropped Cook on 66 in the slips on Wednesday, put down the former England skipper for the second time on 153 in a sharp right-handed chance at square leg.
The tourists lost seven wickets for 299 on the dominant third day with captain Joe Root again failing to convert a half-century into three figures when he top-edged a hook shot off Cummins to Lyon at deep square leg.
– Malan’s review fail –
Root reached his third half-century of the series but was clearly furious with himself when he holed out on 61 in the morning session.
Dawid Malan, a century-maker in the third Test in Perth, was out leg before wicket with Josh Hazlewood’s second delivery of the second new ball for 14.
Malan conferred with Cook before deciding not to review, yet replays showed a distinct ‘Hot Spot’ nick on his bat which would have kept him at the crease if he had challenged the decision.
It follows James Vince’s similar dismissal on Wednesday to Hazlewood for 17, when he also did not seek a review despite ‘Hot Spot’ showing a mark on his bat.
England lost two wickets in the middle session with Jonny Bairstow caught behind off Lyon for 22 and Moeen Ali lashing out for 20 off 14 balls.
It was the sixth time in seven innings in the series that Moeen had been dismissed by fellow off-spinner Lyon.
Chris Woakes gloved a Cummins bouncer to wicketkeeper Tim Paine for 26 shortly after tea, and debutant Tom Curran was caught behind off Hazlewood following a ‘Hot Spot’ review.