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Cook Century Seals Draw For England

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Alastair Cook cruised to a career-best, unbeaten 139 here Monday as England comfortably drew the 4th Digicel Test against the West Indies on a meandering fifth and final day at Kensington Oval.

The left-handed opener’s eighth Test century and Kevin Pietersen’s undefeated 72 saw off any faint hopes the home team had of forcing a series-clinching victory.

England, overnight six without loss, eventually declared at 279 for two just before the final hour to signal the end of a match in which 1628 runs were scored and only 17 wickets fell.

Cook and Captain Andrew Strauss resisted the early new ball burst from Fidel Edwards, upon whose back rested any optimism of a West Indian victory. The pair shared a first wicket stand of 88 that went a long way towards sealing the draw.

The home team had one opening to separate that pair when Cook was 30 at 58 without loss. He survived after a top-edged swing at Sulieman Benn just eluded Brendan Nash running back from midwicket.

When Strauss fell to West Indies skipper Chris Gayle and Owais Shah perished to Benn just after lunch at 129-2, the West Indies sniffed a faint chance.

Strauss (38) tried to force through the off side and dragged onto his stumps while Shah was late on a fullish delivery and plumb LBW for 21.  But Cook and Pietersen comfortably put on 150 unbroken for the third wicket to see out the day.

Cook, whose century was his first since December 2007, cracked 15 fours off 256 balls in just under five hours. The Essex batsman, at 24 years, 67 days, became the youngest Englishman to pass 3,000 runs when he reached 97.

Pietersen hit seven fours and a six off 116 deliveries.

West Indies remain 1-0 up in the series with the final Digicel Test beginning in Trinidad on Friday.

West Indies captain Chris Gayle said that his team will not be playing for a draw there: “We’re still going there with a positive mentality to actually win the game.  England has to play a lot of catch-up cricket and once our batters can get the runs on the board then it will be difficult for England.”

Ramnaresh Sarwan, unquestioned Digicel Man of the Match after his magnificent 291 led the West Indies to a mammoth 749-9 declared, said that keeping the series lead in Barbados was satisfying:  “I think the most important thing is that we got a draw out of the game.  We were chasing a big total which was 600.  Of course, it would have been great to achieve 300 but nevertheless, I’m pretty happy.”

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