Opener Alastair Cook hit a patient half-century in the final match of his career as England reached 123 for one at tea on the opening day of the fifth and final Test against India at the Oval on Friday.
The 33-year-old Cook, who is playing his final Test for England after which he will retire from international cricket, had eight hits to fence in his 177-ball unbeaten innings as he shared 60 runs with opening partner Keaton Jennings (23) and then forged an unconquered 63-run stand with Moeen Ali (23) for the second wicket.
At the break, Cook was unbeaten on 66 runs, while Ali was batting on 23 not out having faced 102 balls.
Post lunch, India toiled hard and tightened their lines as the pacers got some seam movement. Jasprit Bumrah (0-31) and Ishant Sharma (0-17) bowled threatening spells, and could have easily accounted for both batsmen.
In the 31st over, Ajinkya Rahane dropped Cook (on 37*) at gully off Sharma. Three balls later, Virat Kohli dropped Ali (on 2*) at third slip off Bumrah.
Ali also survived an lbw shout in 33rd over off Bumrah, with India’s DRS appeal being turned down. In fact he was lucky to survive this session at all, as Mohammed Shami (0-27) beat him on umpteen occasions but simply didn’t find the edge.
Cook was more solid at the other end, and duly reached his 57th half-century off 139 balls to a rousing reception from the packed crowd. In doing so he put on 50 with Ali off 158 balls for the second wicket stand.
Despite India’s toils the breakthrough didn’t come, even as England scored at a slow pace with only 55 runs coming in the two-hour session with 100 coming up in only the 59th over.
Earlier, England made their best start of the series, reaching 68-1 at lunch after skipper Joe Root won his fifth consecutive toss of the series and opted to bat.
Cook as given a ‘guard of honour’ by the Indian team as he walked out to bat in his final Test.
Opening bowlers Bumrah and Sharma found some movement in the initial overs, but the wicket turned out to be best for batting in this series so far.
The early movement disappeared very quickly as Cook and Jennings made a sedate start. Hanuma Vihari (0-1), who earned his maiden Test cap replacing Hardik Pandya, was also in action as he came on to bowl first-change in the 14th over.
It was his solitary over though, as Jadeja (1-36) and Shami took over bowling duties after the drinks’ break.
Cook and Jennings brought up only their second 50-partnership this series off 107 balls, and went on to put up their best opening stand in five Tests -- 60 runs. Their previous highest was 54 at Trent Bridge.
Jennings though couldn’t go on for longer, as he edged Jadeja to leg slip in the 24th over with KL Rahul adding another catch to his tally.
Ali and Cook then batted out the remaining session until lunch, with India hardly creating any threatening chances.