Cook century ensures series win


Alastair Cook's outstanding century successfully combated the threat posed by a West Indies team sporting the services of Chris Gayle in a comfortable eight-wicket victory for England in Tuesday's second ODI at The Oval in London.

Alastair Cook's outstanding century successfully combated the threat posed by a West Indies team sporting the services of Chris Gayle in a comfortable eight-wicket victory for England in the second ODI at The Oval in London.

A 239-run target was never going to truly test the home side after captain Cook and his sidekick, Ian Bell, put on 122 runs inside 22 overs for the first wicket. A near flawless foundation ultimately brought an easy triumph with five overs to spare, and along with it a series win.

Boosted by Gayle's belated return to the XI – and his subsequent half-century blitz – the Windies imposed themselves with the bat but were severely inadequate with the ball. Using all of eight bowlers, they were found desperately wanting by the dominant Cook.

The talented left-hander added to his consecutive tons in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year with a fluid 112 on Tuesday. That trio of three-figure vigils, Kevin Pietersen's back-to-back centuries against Pakistan and Bell's 126 in the series opener leaves England as the only team ever to enjoy six consecutive centuries from an opening batsman.

The sextet was certainly aided by poor opposition bowling, with the example at The Oval arguably the worst of the lot. Tino Best, awfully erratic, failed in replacing the injured Andre Russell. Dwayne Bravo was entirely underbowled. Sunil Narine's complement finished too early and Dwayne Smith's empty seam should never have featured at all.

Cook wasn't going to waste the opportunity to cash in, duly helping himself to the fifth century of his ODI career. 13 fours and a six later, he was well on course for his highest score, only to endure a rush of blood to the head in holing out in the deep.

Darren Sammy, pretty much the lone highlight of the visitors' day in the field, will find some solace after snaring both Bell and Cook for final figures of two for 46 in 10 overs.

With the asking rate nominal and time out in the middle always valuable, Jonathan Trott and Ravi Bopara took their collective cue in finishing on 43 not out and an unbeaten 19 in the process. Trott, never afraid to speak his mind, enjoyed an intriguing verbal duel with the lippy Kieron Pollard to add some entertainment to an otherwise predictable end.

Earlier Gayle's resounding return to international competition was stopped dead in its tracks by a questionable lbw decision before Bravo's first ODI half-century in over two years carried the West Indies to a promising – but ultimately fruitless – total of 238 for nine.

Robbed of participation in the series opener by a shin injury, Gayle resumed his supremacy at the top of the knock thanks to a five-six, 51-delivery cameo.

Picking up exactly where he left off in the Indian Premier League, the Royal Challengers Bangalore sign-off celebrated an agreement with the WICB that has him back in the fold after 15 months on the sidelines in fine style.

Relatively reserved at the start of his vigil, the hard-hitting left-hander enjoyed a string of sighters before tucking into what all had come to see. A 20,000-plus crowd were treated to an enormous bombardment, only for an iffy choice from the third umpire to upend the action.

Tim Bresnan, carted to all corners by Gayle's severe lack of mercy, was a relieved man when Graeme Swann trapped the batsman lbw. Gayle, rightly so, reviewed the on-field decision, which ultimately stood. Third umpire Kumar Dharmasena didn't find enough doubt as to whether or not ball met bat before pad, and colleague Tony Hill's original decision was arguably vindicated.

Visibly aggrieved with the conclusion, Gayle took a long time to vacate the crease and will probably find himself out of pocket come the match referee's judgment.

The Windies' collective quest to find the fence slacked momentum, but was soon relaunched thanks to Bravo and Pollard, whose 100-run stand inside 19 overs left England's attack looking one-dimensional. Perhaps four right-arm seamers and a spinner isn't the way forward after all…

A 239-run target, though, didnt trouble an England lineup that fetched some 50 runs more – in tougher conditions and under a bit more pressure – in the first match.

The third and final ODI gets underway at Headingley in Leeds on Friday, and will be followed by a one off Twenty20 International at Trent Bridge in Nottingham on Sunday.