Birmingham: India hadn't seen the best of Alastair Cook in the first two Tests. Now they have. His unbeaten 182, a 19th Test hundred, carried England into a position of complete control at Edgbaston as they built a lead of 232 with the prospect of plenty more to come. Cook added 187 for the first wicket alongside Andrew Strauss, while Kevin Pietersen contributed a lively half-century on India's worst day of the series with England closed on an imposing 456 for 3.
Cook's lean start to the series - 20 runs in four innings - was barely enough to constitute a problem, but the expectations on him are high after his run-scoring feats over the last 12 months. A year ago, midway through the Pakistan series, Cook was in the middle of a severe slump but this hundred was his third of the summer and fourth of the year. His century came from 213 balls and after a watchful, dogged, start both yesterday evening then in the morning session he was scoring freely through the leg side and also with both his cover drive and cut. (Also read: Butterfingered India 'Cooked' by England)
Yet it wasn't just Cook's normal shots that were on show. At one stage he played a reverse sweep off Amit Mishra having noted the vacant slip area, which also cost India the chance of dismissing Cook when he slashed through the gap on 94. He didn't offer a clear-cut life, although inside-edged Ishant Sharma over the stumps shortly after reaching his hundred and Sachin Tendulkar didn't appear to pick up the ball at mid-on when Cook clipped in the air on 165. He appeared on track to reach his second double hundred before the close, but was content to play out time and wait for a new day.
For England the success of their openers added two more pieces to the series jigsaw that is almost complete. All they need now is for Graeme Swann to play a part in the second innings which isn't out of the question having seen the turn Mishra and even Suresh Raina were able to extract. This was a humbling day for India and they were never in the contest. The ground fielding was poor and the catching fallible with three chances going down; the third of them in the final over of the day when Rahul Dravid missed a dolly at slip with Eoin Morgan on 43. Dravid threw his cap down in frustration. It summed up India's performance.
Early wickets could have brought them back into the contest but they never materialised and the rare inroads they did make never halted England's progress. The attack was largely toothless, although Praveen Kumar deserves immense credit for his unstinting efforts which were rewarded with two wickets and some sore feet.
England, quite sensibly, gave the first hour to the bowlers aware that India's attack lacked depth and scoring would steadily become easier. Cook made 5 from his first 42 balls in the day and there was a five-over period with one run off the bat - Praveen's first spell was 7-5-2-0 - but India were denied any inroads. Strauss and Cook then expanded their scoring as runs flowed either side of lunch and the pace never slowed. The day brought 372 runs which, to follow on from 417 conceded on the third day Trent Bridge, highlights how profligate the bowling has been.
Strauss was closing in on his first Test hundred since Brisbane but moved too far across when he went to sweep Mishra and the ball clipped leg stump. Replays showed it was another no-ball on a day Mishra delivered eight. However, if India had hoped that would give them a chance to assert some pressure they soon found England scoring at an even greater rate as Ian Bell began with a string of boundaries off Ishant. Bell was given a life on 30 when Dravid dropped a low chance at first slip but it wasn't too costly for India as Praveen produced a beautiful delivery to take off stump.
Pietersen continued the positive approach, after his off-the-mark boundary flew close to leg slip, and made his intent to dominate Mishra clear when he drilled him straight then launched him into the stands over long-on. Against the new ball he was expansive, taking three boundaries in an over off Ishant, the first of which took him to fifty from 52 deliveries. It was a shock - both for the crowd and Pietersen - when he was given lbw to Praveen despite being a long way down the pitch although Hawk Eye said it was clipping off stump. Pietersen had to drag himself away, no doubt aware that there were plenty more runs on offer.
Still, the occasional wicket was barely a set-back for England. Another partnership would form, as Cook did with Eoin Morgan, but India continued to find new ways to embarrass themselves as Sreesanth spilled a simple catch at point to give Morgan his first life on 17. Like at Trent Bridge, after a brief test against the quicks, Morgan was able to face some fairly friendly spin with the pacemen exhausted. India looked anything but the No. 1 team in the world and soon they won't be.