Kolkata: Alastair Cook continued to prosper on the Indian pitches as his brilliant unbeaten hundred, fifth in a row as England captain and third on the trot in this series, helped England dominate yet another day in the series, reaching 216 for 1 at stumps after bowling out India for 316 on day two of the third Test here on Thursday.
By reaching yet another three-figure mark, 23rd of his career, Cook (136*) not only leapfrogged the likes of Wally Hammond, Colin Cowdrey, Geoffrey Boycott and Kevin Pietersen as the highest century maker for England, but also kept his side's desire of winning a series in India since 1984-85 afloat. When the bails were removed late on Thursday, England were by far the better side with a chance of putting further pressure on the hosts by piling up a huge score and taking a mammoth lead on Friday. Jonathan Trott, with 21 to his name so far, too looked set by the end of the day's play.
MS Dhoni would be ruing the decision of putting Cheteshwar Pujara in the first slip as the 24-year-old, better used at short-leg or silly-point, dropped a straight forward chance of Cook, who was on 17 then and looked intent to play another big innings.
Cook made an unbeaten 136 as England firmed their grip on the Kolkata Test, trailing India by just 100 runs at the end of day two.
Zaheer Khan, like James Anderson for England, made the old ball swing both ways after lunch and had almost provided India their first breakthrough when he induced Cook to nibble at a length delivery pitched on off and moving away. But Pujara, who was standing a shade deep at first slip, grassed a chance he should have caught easily.
Cook, as he has shown throughout this series, didn't look in any discomfort while playing pace or spin and scored runs all round the wicket. He drove Zaheer and Ishant Sharma, while swept and lofted Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha for big shots. He got to his hundred by sweeping Ashwin for a couple.
Like the pacers, Indian spinners too looked ineffective, and the benign pitch at the Eden Gardens made life more difficult for them. In the company of his captain, Compton too grew in confidence as he came down the track and played a few audacious shots. The 29-year-old got his maiden fifty when he pulled Ishant for a single, but was trapped lbw while batting on 57. The ball seemed to have kissed his glove before hitting the front pad but umpire Rod Tucker thought otherwise and raised his finger. The wicket also snapped the 165-run stand between him and Cook.
Earlier, Cook and Compton once again looked solid as the tourists reached 22 for 0 at lunch after Dhoni motored along with the tail to take India to a respectable 316 in their first innings.
The England openers were patient and were unbeaten on 17 and 5 respectively at the break. Indian pace bowlers, Zaheer and Ishant, who has been included for this match in place of offspinner Harbhajan Singh, were not as sharp as they were expected to be and couldn't get any swing with the new ball.
Earlier, Dhoni showed aggression from the outset, coming down the track and drilling James Anderson to the straight fence. Zaheer was spared when Graeme Swann couldn't hold on to a simple chance at second slip, but the batsman couldn't last long as Monty Panesar trapped him for six for his third wicket. Panesar, the most successful bowler from both sides in this series, got his fourth wicket of the innings and 15th of the series when he castled Sharma for a duck.
With nine wickets already down, Dhoni hit the top gear and swatted consecutive sixes off Panesar to take India past 300 and it took an extraordinary delivery by Steven Finn to get rid of the Indian captain. The ball reared up as Dhoni tried to sway away of its line but it hit the shoulder of Dhoni's bat before ballooning in the air where Swann took a good diving catch running from the slip.