x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Cook is living the dream

Alastair Cook's response after his first day as a captain in Test cricket may seem a bit hackneyed, but if there is such thing as a perfect start, then this was it.

Alastair Cook's response after his first day as a captain in Test cricket may seem a bit hackneyed, but if there is such thing as a perfect start, then this was it. "It's what dreams are made of," he said after a majestic, unbeaten knock that has probably already sealed the fate of the first Test between England and Bangladesh in Chittagong. "To bat all day, I'm really proud of that and obviously the team are in a really good position."

Cook (158) did not just stay at the crease all day, but he did it with style, moving into three-figures with a glorious sweep for a six off Mahmudullah and England closed the day on a healthy 374 for three. "I think that's the first time I've brought a hundred up with a six - something to write home about," added the 25-year-old, who became the fifth England captain to score a hundred in his first match in charge.

The last man to do that was Kevin Pietersen, who added to England's joy by climbing out of his recent lean spell with a typically forceful innings and a 170-run partnership with his captain. With just 69 runs from seven innings on the tour, Pietersen needed a riposte for his critics and he almost managed one - falling to a left-arm spinner once more, just one short of his first century in 14 Test innings.

Pietersen's last Test century came at Port of Spain last March and he has since struggled with injuries and form. But with a big three-figure score beckoning, he rocked back to nudge a single, and lost his off-stump to Abdur Razzak. Given his recent drought, Pietersen was not too worried about missing out on what would have been his 17th century in Test cricket. "The lads have just asked if I would have taken 99 this morning the way I've been playing the last couple of weeks and I certainly would have done," he said. "I'm disappointed, but the team are in a fantastic position and 99 is better than nought."

Pietersen's primary concern on the tour has been the spinners, the left-armers in particular. But not one to shy away from labouring in the nets, Pietersen sought advice from different quarters - Andy Flower, the England team director and one of the best players of spin in his days as a Zimbabwe international, Duncan Fletcher, the former England coach, and Rahul Dravid, India's Test batting maestro.

"I've had long chats to Andy Flower," he said. "Andy was obviously an amazing player of spin - and I spoke to Rahul as well earlier in the week. He gave me a few tips and I've just got a really nice message from him saying 'it worked'. "I've played with Rahul for Bangalore, I've played a lot of Test match cricket against him and in two weeks I'll be spending a month with him [at the IPL]. It's great to spend time speaking to people like that and he's helped a heck of a lot.

"The hard work has obviously paid off and to get 99 was special." arizvi@thenational.ae