Alastair Cook chiselled out an unbeaten half century on his England farewell as the hosts reached 123-1 at tea on day one of fifth Test against India at the Oval on Friday.
The 33-year-old, who announced his retirement from international cricket on Monday saying he had ‘nothing left in the tank’, showed why he is his country’s leading Test run scorer with a gritty 66 not out from 177 balls.
Moeen Ali was with him on 23.
With England having taken a decisive 3-1 series lead in Southampton, all eyes were on former captain Cook as he began his 161st and final Test, eager to end a magnificent 12-year career with a flourish.
He received a thunderous ovation from the packed stands as he walked on to a sunlit pitch through an Indian guard of honour to open the batting after England won the toss.
The crowd, many wearing chef hats in his honour, rose again midway through the afternoon session when Cook pushed Mohammed Shami for two runs to reach his 57th Test half century -- the first by an opener in a series in which ball has dominated bat.
After a run of low scores the cricketing Gods shone on Cook. He was dropped on 37 but on a day of old-fashioned Test combat with precious few runs being gifted, the resilience and calm that have taken him to sixth on the all-time list of Test run scorers shone through.
After an emotional entrance there was relief all round as Cook got off the mark by pushing Ishant Sharma through the covers for three, taking him past 1,000 Test runs at the Oval.
Cook struck successive boundaries off Jasprit Bumrah in the day’s ninth over, the first cut hard through square and the second a majestic pull off a shortish delivery.
But mainly it was a day for quiet accumulation and steadfastness against a luckless Indian attack.
The spotlight on Cook disguised the fact that Keaton Jennings, his fellow opener, is battling to nail down his place as England plan a future without a man who began the day with 12,254 runs to his credit.
Jennings fell into a trap having reached 23 though, nudging a delivery from spinner Ravindra Jadeja straight into the hands of KL Rahul at leg slip. The 60 opening stand was the highest by either side in the series but that was scant consolation for Jennings who looked livid at his soft dismissal.
England were 68-1 at lunch but led a charmed life after it as Bumrah, Sharma and Mohammed Shami repeatedly beat the bat.
Cook was squared up by Sharma but Ajinkya Rahane spilled a low catch then Moeen, batting at three so skipper Joe Root can drop to four, swiped at Bumrah and the ball flew to Virat Kohli at third slip but he could not cling on.
Moeen then survived a review having shouldered arms to a Bumrah delivery that nipped back to clip the top of his pad.
England brought the 100 up in 273 balls.
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