England lead by 232 runs

Alastair Cook’s 182 not out led England into a commanding position against India on the second day of the third Test at Edgbaston here on Thursday.

At stumps, England were 456 for three in reply to India’s mediocre 224 – a lead of 232 runs.

Cook’s fellow left-hander Eoin Morgan was unbeaten on 44 in a fourth-wicket stand so far worth 82.

England were in complete control as they pursued a win that would give them both an unbeatable 3-0 lead in the four-Test series and see them replace India at the top of the ICC’s Test Championship table.

Cook’s ton was his 19th in Tests and only five players — Walter Hammond, Colin Cowdrey, Geoffrey Boycott (22 each), Ken Barrington and Cook’s mentor Graham Gooch (both 20) — have now made more for England than the 26-year-old Essex opener, currently playing in his 71st match at this level.

Cook’s latest century, his first of a series where he’d managed just 20 runs in four previous innings, also saw him equal the records of both England great Len Hutton and current captain Andrew Strauss.

Together with fellow left-handed opener Strauss, Cook shared a first-wicket stand of 186 before the skipper fell for 87 to leg-spinner Amit Mishra.

He then put on 122 with Kevin Pietersen, who made a dashing 63.

"It’s always nice to score runs, it’s especially pleasing when you haven’t got many in the past few innings," Cook told reporters after stumps.

Gooch has always encouraged Cook, who led England’s batting statistics in Australia with 766 runs at an average of 127.66 including three centuries during the recent 3-1 Ashes series win, to score "daddy" hundreds.

And his protege, whose only Test double century to date was the 235 not out he made against Australia in Brisbane in November, did that by pulling fast bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth to long-on to go to 150 with his 23rd four.

It was the fifth time in Tests Cook had reached that landmark and the fourth since March last year.

"Graham was a great player and he’s a friend now," said Cook of former Essex opener Gooch, now England’s batting coach.

"’Daddy’ hundreds comes from him – he doesn’t count anything under 150," added Cook of ex-England captain Gooch, whose Test-best score was the 333 he made against India at Lord’s in 1990.

But Praveen Kumar, a shining light for a lacklustre India, broke the third-wicket stand when he had Pietersen lbw.

The medium-pacer had previously bowled Ian Bell, on his Warwickshire home ground and fresh from a hundred in England’s 319-run second Test win, for 34 with a beauty that uprooted off-stump.

Kumar finished the day with economical figures of two for 75 in 32 overs.

"He’s bowled exceptionally well, got through a lot of overs, and swung the ball both ways," said Cook.

But the remainder of an India attack, where three bowlers conceded at least 100 runs each, and missing injured spearhead Zaheer Khan couldn’t contain England and the tourists were also hampered by three dropped catches.

Morgan was given two lives, first when Sreesanth put down an easy effort at backward point when the Dubliner had made 17 and then when Rahul Dravid – who has more catches to his name than anyone else in Test cricket – inexplicably spilled a sitter at slip in Thursday’s final over.

"India’s Gautam Gambhir, who said there were "no excuses" for India’s dropped catches, praised fellow opener Cook by saying: "He batted brilliantly. He showed a lot of patience and determination.

"Once you are in, you must make ‘big’ runs. We’ve made a lot of starts (this series) but, with the exception of Rahul (Dravid), we haven’t made ‘big’ runs."

One rare sadness for England, who resumed Thursday on 84 without loss, was that Strauss fell in sight of a hundred when he deflected an intended sweep off Mishra onto his own stumps, although replays suggested it was in fact a no-ball.

It was Strauss’s best Test score since he made 110 at Brisbane in November.(AFP)



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