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Alastair Cook says ‘dreams come true’ after 33rd and final Test century

The Guardian logo The Guardian 11-09-2018 Ali Martin at the Kia Oval
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In the end there was time for one last Chef special. On an emotional fourth day at the Kia Oval one of England’s greatest cricketers, Alastair Cook, signed off from his record-breaking international career with a 33rd Test century that proved to him dreams can come true.

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It could not have been scripted better. With 15 minutes to go before lunch Cook reached three figures in the whites of his country for the final time and, though a slapstick moment – coming via four overthrows from the errant arm of India’s Jasprit Bumrah – it was no less sweet, with the ground rising as one for what seemed a never-ending ovation.

“Ever since my retirement has been announced, I suppose you hope you have a good week. To top it off with a score here is just incredible. Sometimes dreams come true,” said Cook, whose final contribution to the cause ended up being 147 from 286 balls as Joe Root’s side took full control of the fifth Test against India.

England's Alastair Cook during the test match at The Kia Oval, London © getty England's Alastair Cook during the test match at The Kia Oval, London

“It was very emotional – there was definitely a lump in my throat with that ovation. I had about 30 friends here and obviously family, so you couldn’t have scripted it. It’s one of those days where you will look back and forever go ‘Wow!’”

With Jimmy Anderson, Cook’s close friend and teammate of 12 years, equalling Glenn McGrath’s record of 563 Test wickets by a seam bowler, with the scalps of Shikhar Dhawan and Che Pujara, and Stuart Broad removing Virat Kohli first ball in the heady final session, to be an England supporter in SE11 on Monday was truly to be in clover.

England's Alastair Cook during the test match at The Kia Oval, London © getty England's Alastair Cook during the test match at The Kia Oval, London

Thus India closed on 58 for three, chasing a fanciful 464 to win, as Cook’s Barmy Army song rang around the ground. The former captain’s farewell score, and a 14th Test century for his successor, Root, had helped England to 423 for eight declared and they will resume on Tuesday morning needing seven wickets for a 4-1 series win over the world’s No 1 side.

Cook’s vigil made it a career bookended by centuries too, having announced himself to the world stage in Nagpur back in 2006 with an unbeaten 104 on debut. In the course of 161 Test matches he has nudged, cut and pulled his way to an English record 12,472 runs, averaging 45.35 per innings with 1,442 fours and 11 sixes.

Alastair Cook is applauded off at the end of his final Test innings. © Reuters Alastair Cook is applauded off at the end of his final Test innings.

The magic moment will live long in the memory. Cook raised his bat to all corners of Kennington, his teammates banged the windows of the dressing room and his family applauded from the stands. His wife, Alice, a rock during good times and bad, was also among the 19,300 present on what was the due date for the couple’s third child.

Cook said: “It’s just been the most surreal four days of my life. I suppose if she goes into labour tonight, that’ll probably top it off. For that all to happen today, and every reception I’ve had over the last four days, it’s just been incredible. Even that last couple of overs, when the whole crowd were singing my Barmy Army song, it was incredibly special.”

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Has this final knock, amid a final Test of some 218 runs across two innings, given him second thoughts about calling it a day? “No. It absolutely confirms it. This is not just the culmination of three or four low scores or bad games in a Test series. It’s been something that’s been coming for 12-18 months. It’s just time. It’s time for me – it’s time for my family.

“It’s always nice people wanting a little bit more than trying to kick you out, and to go on your own terms makes it even better. And obviously if we can top it off with a win and a 4-1 win over the No 1 side in the world, it would make it even more special.”

While the Oval soaked up the final moments, the England and Wales Cricket Board snuck out a press release confirming six days of trials for its controversial new format, The Hundred, will take place at Loughborough and Trent Bridge between 14 and 27 September. As if a reminder was needed, this really is the end of an era.

Joe Root and his fiance Carrie Cotterell are madly in love and these photos prove it!

(Slideshow by Midday)

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