BRIDGETOWN // Alastair Cook stroked a career-best 139 not out on Monday as the fourth Test between England and the West Indies ended in a tame draw on the final day at Kensington Oval. Cook, the left-handed opener, notched his eighth Test century and Kevin Pietersen added an unfussed 72 not out as the visitors comfortably saw off the West Indies' pursuit of a series-clinching victory.
The home team maintain a 1-0 lead going into the fifth and final Test in Trinidad which starts on Friday. England coasted to 279-2 before the captain Andrew Strauss' declaration ended a match in which a total of 1,628 runs were scored for the loss of just 17 wickets. Strauss admitted that the conditions made an outright result difficult. "It [the pitch] remained incredibly true right through to the end of the fifth day," Strauss said.
"It's a bad pitch for captains to be honest, a lot of scratching of heads going on, both myself and [his West Indies counterpart] Chris [Gayle]. But I think the bowlers bowled pretty well in pretty trying conditions and we move on to Trinidad and, hopefully, can level the series there." Cook and Strauss, resuming on 6-0, saw off an early burst from the fast bowler Fidel Edwards and the pair's opening stand of 88 set the platform to ensure the draw.
Cook was 30 when he survived a top-edged slog-sweep off the left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn that just eluded Brendan Nash running back from midwicket but had few alarms after that. When Strauss (38) fell to Gayle (1-46) and Owais Shah (21) was trapped lbw by Benn (1-64) just after lunch at 129-2, the West Indies had a faint hope. But Cook and Pietersen comfortably put on an unbroken 150 for the third wicket to see out the day.
Cook, whose century was his first since December 2007, cracked 15 fours off 256 balls in just under five hours. The Essex batsman, at 24 years, 67 days, became the youngest Englishman to pass 3,000 runs when he reached 97. Pietersen hit seven fours and a six off 116 deliveries. Strauss admitted that it was an important landmark for his opening partner. "Not getting a hundred has been a bit of a monkey on his back so to get rid of that is reassuring," Strauss said.
"The great thing is that he has been playing well throughout that time he hasn't got a hundred. To get that off his back, I think that'll free him up and hopefully you might see him go bang, bang, bang and get a few in a row." Gayle heads confidently to Trinidad where the conditions are expected to encourage the bowlers more. "That would be nice but at the same time, we are 1-0 up. But whatever we get we'll take at this point in time," Gayle said.
"We're still going there with a positive mentality to actually win the game. England have to play a lot of catch-up cricket and once our batters can get the runs on the board then it will be difficult for England." * AP