x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Cook steers England to a draw

The opener scores an unbeaten 139 as England and the West Indies shake hands in the fourth Test in Barbados after the tourists declare on 279/2.

Alastair Cook hit his eighth Test hundred to steer England to an inevitable draw against West Indies at Kensington Oval. Cook's unbeaten 139 comfortably represents his highest Test score and Kevin Pietersen weighed in with 72 not out as the tourists averted anything untoward on the final day of a run-heavy contest. The pair shook hands with their West Indian opponents at 3.50pm local time after declaring on 279 for two. English hopes of victory were dashed when the Windies stacked up 749 for nine declared yesterday but they were required to keep their discipline to maintain an interest in the series. Having been shot out for just 51 already in this campaign, England highlighted the freak nature of that day at Sabina Park by comfortably wiping out their 149-run deficit on first innings. Cook, who started the fifth day on nought in an overnight score of six without loss, celebrated his first hundred at this level for more than 14 months before tea and became the third-youngest player, behind Sachin Tendulkar and Ramnaresh Sarwan, to pass 3,000 Test runs. The opener, 24, spoke earlier in this series about the need to address his chronic conversion rate of 50s to hundreds and he began this innings with 11 half-centuries in his past 27 innings.

Aside from a sharp reaction from Sulieman Benn at leg slip which encouraged the umpire Russell Tiffin to ask for television assistance on a run-out appeal, Cook's only life came in the penultimate over of the first hour. The Essex left-hander had made 30 when he top-edged a slog-sweep off the giant spinner Benn which Brendan Nash failed to catch running back from midwicket. Cook passed 50 for the fourth time in as many innings this series before lunch and ploughed to three figures in the middle session when he turned a delivery from Ryan Hinds through midwicket for three. Pietersen, meanwhile, reached a 74-ball 50 shortly afterwards to continue the rich form of the batsmen since their Jamaican capitulation. Pre-match talk from England had revolved around how to take 20 wickets but incredibly even the two sides combined could not manage it over a full five days due to the supreme nature of the batting surface.

The loss of captain Andrew Strauss and his Middlesex colleague Owais Shah either side of lunch took the tally in the contest to 17. Strauss was the only casualty before lunch while Shah also went to spin to give West Indies a brief glimmer of hope. Strauss, whose 16th Test hundred on day one appeared to be setting a platform for a victory push, headed into the fifth morning determined to retain his side's interest in the campaign. He had contributed 38 when he chopped into his stumps from an attempted cut in Chris Gayle's first over. Shah was then struck full on the foot by a delivery from Benn in the sixth over after lunch to open up an end but Strauss' opening partner Cook and Pietersen took their side into credit. Fidel Edwards was the one fast bowler to rush the batsmen in this bat-dominated contest but his focus was distracted in the opening minutes today by the umpire Aleem Dar's observations that he was running on the pitch. It appeared to get into Edwards' mind and although he later produced some of his customary firebrand stuff, one of his overs cost 17 as Cook twice pulled for four and another bouncer flew for four byes. Cook got off the mark in the opening over of the day with an edged four off Edwards and raced past overnight partner Strauss with some positive strokes. He maintained a positive mood in the bid to secure a draw and head to Trinidad with the chance of levelling the series. West Indies, meanwhile, gave up one of their two referrals for the innings with a failed challenge to Cook being given not out at bat-pad, on 58, off Gayle. Pietersen batted with his customary ease, highlighted by a simple loft for six over midwicket off Hinds. He also toyed with switch-hitting late on, although Cook's more conventional style meant he edged the scoring in their unbroken 150-run alliance for the third wicket. *PA Sport