Alastair Cook’s record-breaking double-century kept England in control of the fourth Ashes Test at the MCG.
Cook (244no), with a best of just 37 in his previous 10 innings, resumed on day three with his 32nd Test hundred already in the book – and what followed was remarkable, especially during a ninth-wicket stand of exactly 100 with Stuart Broad (56), as he made up entirely for the fragility of several teammates.
England’s all-time record run-scorer beat Wally Hammond’s previous ground-record 200 for a compatriot, and then surpassed Viv Richards’ best of 209 from any overseas batsman here.
For England, the bottom line of 491 for nine and a first-innings advantage of 164 were riches indeed after their captain Joe Root (61) and others had briefly invited Australia back into the contest.
Cook’s brilliant innings followed a fallow run of just 124 runs in his previous 10 Test innings – dating back to his 243 in the day-night Test against West Indies at Edgbaston more than four months ago.
England’s all-time record run-scorer has been no stranger throughout his career to peaks and troughs, but has proved over and over again that, once he gets in, he is not easily satisfied.
Cook supplied plenty of prime candidates in an often untypically fluent and stylish innings, but his straight-drive off Jackson Bird to bring up his double-century and England’s highest ever score at this venue – surpassing Wally Hammond – had to take pride of place.
Little has gone right for Moeen Ali on this tour, however, and his frantic 20 off 14 balls appeared to be the culmination of an increasingly frazzled approach.
It seems Cook has an admirer as well after his incredible showing Down Under, and that is no other than Ben Stokes, who tweeted the following:
His bizarre cameo was not what England needed as they tried to ensure a first-innings lead, and the hapless poke to cover which concluded his brief stay means Nathan Lyon has dismissed his opposite number every time he has bowled to him this winter.
After his failure to convert another 50 into three figures, Root’s percentage success rate in that task is way below that of his global rivals – 30 behind top-of-the-league Virat Kohli and 23 short of his Ashes opposite number Steve Smith.
England have given themselves an obvious chance of victory over the last two days.