x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Cook ton puts visitors ahead

The opener's 118 in nearly seven hours was a knock of dogged resistance, superb judgement outside off stump and calculated strokes where necessary.

KINGSMEAD // Aesthetically, Alastair Cook may not be the most pleasing on the eye. But yesterday, he played an innings of real Test-match quality to put England in total control of the second Test. Cook's 118 off 263 balls in nearly seven hours was a knock of dogged resistance, superb judgement outside off stump and cool, calculated strokes where necessary.

It was his first century in two years, aside from the two he got against a weak West Indies attack earlier in 2009, and together with Paul Collingwood (91), Cook has given England a real chance of going to Cape Town 1-0 up. While Cook had set up England's victory charge, Collingwood's similarly gritty innings has ensured they can bat South Africa out of the game first. Andrew Strauss's men finished on 386 for five, to lead by 43 runs with two days left and local weather forecasts indicating there is ample opportunity to win the game.

England were helped by the conditions yesterday. It was a glorious day, without a cloud in the sky, with a fairly strong wind and a pitch that South Africa struggled to get too much out of. But the visitors got off to the worst possible start when Jonathan Trott fell for just 18 in only the seventh ball of the day. Morne Morkel, the pick of the South African bowlers throughout, found Trott's edge and Mark Boucher took a fine diving catch.

That brought in Kevin Pietersen, on the ground where he made his first-class debut, and he looked at his usual attacking best before departing softly to Paul Harris lbw for 31. Cook had started slowly, scoring one run in the first 13 overs of the day but came out of his shell after that, successfully overturning Amiesh Saheba decision to give him out caught by Hashim Amla off JP Duminy. It proved to be a crucial moment as Cook started to flow, pulling the excellent Morkel for four to get to 75 by lunch.

Collingwood got going in the afternoon with a beautiful cover drive off Dale Steyn while Cook, predominately on the back foot continued to shine, cutting Harris to the boundary. The South African spinner was having real difficulty coping with the blustery conditions and England's batsmen capitalised to see him out of the attack. Collingwood struck another fine back foot shot off Makhaya Ntini, who was more economical than Saturday but never particularly threatening.

Cook brought up his three figures in typical understated manner with a cool push off Ntini for two and celebrated calmly. It looked like a stroll in the park for England as the wicket flattened out, with Collingwood bringing up the hundred partnership with a nudge down the leg side from Duminy before reaching his half-century. England continued to milk plenty of runs, with a Collingwood straight drive taking the score to 281 for three at tea but Cook finally fell afterwards, edging to Jacques Kallis at second slip to give Morkel a third wicket and end a 142-run partnership.

Collingwood cut Steyn to bring up the England 300 but then came close to finding Harris in the deep with a pull shot, Bell, meanwhile, quickly blasted his way back into form. It was an ideal situation for the Warwickshire batsman. He got going with two boundaries against Ntini before lofting Harris for six. Bell then smashed Kallis majestically through the covers before Collingwood finally fell, caught by Boucher off Duminy's bowling. But Bell ensured that the momentum remained with England, completing his half-century off just 65 balls, to leave South Africa with plenty to do to save the game. @Email:sports@thenational.ae

South Africa (first innings): 343 England (first innings, overnight 103-1): Andrew Strauss b Morkel 54 Alastair Cook c Kallis b Morkel 118 Jonathan Trott c Boucher b Morkel 18 Kevin Pietersen lbw b Harris 31 Paul Collingwood c Boucher b Duminy 91 Ian Bell not out 55 Matt Prior not out 11 Extras (4lb, 1nb, 3w) 8 Total (five wickets; 123 overs) 386 Fall of wickets: 1-71 (Strauss), 2-104 (Trott), 3-155 (Pietersen), 4-297 (Cook), 5-365 (Collingwood) Bowling: Steyn 26-6-60-0 Ntini 20-3-79-0 Morkel 27-6-69-3 (3w) Kallis 14-1-43-0 (1nb) Harris 23-2-92-1 Duminy 13-1-39-1