Cook shows his class with century for England in warm-up game
12:48 GMT, 16 March 2012
18:40 GMT, 16 March 2012
Alastair Cook's unbeaten 163 from 293 balls against a Sri Lankan Board XI will not be remembered as fondly as Sachin Tendulkar’s momentous century but it was a monumental display of concentration and application in energy-sapping conditions.
As those all around him were once again succumbing to spin, Cook batted for the whole second day at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo to lift England to 303 for eight, a lead of 134 on first innings going into today’s final day.
He may have scored two relatively quick hundreds in the one-day series against Pakistan but Cook was back to batting the way he knows best, accumulation with very little fuss and danger. How England needed him after losing seven wickets to moderate spinning trio Dilruwan Perera, Malinga Bandara and Sachithra Serasinghe, with only Matt Prior falling to seam.
Ton up: England's Alastair Cook raises his bat after scoring a century during the practice match against Sri Lanka Board XI
There will be concern about Ian Bell’s
two-ball duck and a scratchy innings of 12 off 55 balls from Ravi
Bopara, who may yet bat his way out of the first Test team.
Andrew Strauss (40) and Kevin Pietersen (39) enjoyed some success but, after struggling against Pakistan's slow bowlers, they will be disappointed at their dismissals to spin.
Cook nudged a single off the second ball of the morning to get off the mark and Strauss cut through point for four two overs later.
Strauss was looking to take on his favoured cut shot from the start, missing a couple of times but also bringing some early runs.
Playing himself in: Andrew Strauss scored 40 before he was out
Cook was playing a more conservative game, but found the ropes for the first time with a punchy drive off Nilanka Premaratne.
Cook took four more off Premaratne when he offered some width outside off stump as England moved to 50 in 99 balls.
The occasional play and miss aside, Strauss and Cook looked well at ease as Prasanna Jayawardene overbowled his seamers in scorching heat.
When Jayawardene finally returned to spin, Strauss used his feet well to deposit Malinga Bandara over the top.
Hitting out: Cook smashes the ball towards the boundary
The skipper had looked comfortable all morning but was given lbw to Dilruwan Perera attempting to work him off the back foot before lunch.
Cook reached 50 at the start of the afternoon session, bringing up the mark in 112 balls.
His new partner, Jonathan Trott, lasted 35 deliveries and made 16 runs before he was given out lbw to Bandara.
Trott's reaction suggested he was unhappy with the verdict, but he eventually walked off to be replaced by Pietersen.
England's number four found the boundary
from the fourth delivery he faced and then moved down the track to hit
the same bowler, Perera, back over his head for four more.
Marching on: Cook scores on his way to his 163
He continued to add momentum to the innings, sweeping another boundary off Perera as Cook accumulated steadily at the other end.
The third-wicket pair eased England past their opponents' total but off-spinner Sachithra Serasinghe responded with two wickets in three balls.
First he halted Pietersen's entertaining knock at 39, then he bowled Bell for a two-ball duck.
Like Trott, Pietersen was visibly unhappy with his decision. Bell, having struggled badly against spin against Pakistan, simply seemed confused.
Cook had to endure a delay in the field on 98 but he was not about to let his hard-won century slip and waited calmly for the chance to whip one into the leg-side for three.
He had taken 220 deliveries to reach three figures, hitting six fours.
As soon as he had celebrated he immediately set about playing – and running – more aggressively.
Supporting role: Cook and Ravi Bopara
But although he may have been ready to let someone else spend some time in the middle, he was the only man who was struggling to get out.
Ravi Bopara was lbw to Perera for 12 and Prior lasted just three balls before Kaniskha Alvitigala had him caught off the inside edge.
Bandara then accounted for Graeme Swann (six) and Steven Finn, who allowed a googly to crash straight into his pads for nought.
Cook looked on from the non-striker's end and carried on nudging his own total along while number 10 James Anderson put a hold on the collapse.
By stumps Cook was scoring with freedom, with Anderson unbeaten on 12.