MELBOURNE • After a miserable period with the bat, a relieved Alastair Cook savoured the emotional release of a big double-century during the fourth Test yesterday but rued that his form returned too late to help England retain the Ashes.
The veteran opening batsman's unbeaten 244 drove England to 491 for nine at stumps on day three at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, a first-innings lead of 164 that all but extinguished Australia's hopes of whitewashing the five-match series.
"After all the emotion came out yesterday, to get a real big one for the team was really important," the 33-year-old said after striding off the MCG to a standing ovation.
"Going to the well again and delivering a performance like that was pleasing. It's just a shame it's three-four weeks too late, I'll have to live with that for a long time but it's nice to score a few."
Through 10 hours and 409 deliveries, the former England skipper mowed down Viv Richards' 208 to set the highest score by a touring batsman at the MCG. He (11,956) moved past another two West Indies greats to be sixth on the all-time Test runs list, eclipsing Shivnarine Chanderpaul (11,867) and then Brian Lara (11,953) with an off-drive for four from the penultimate ball of the day.
Tail-ender Stuart Broad played a gallant support role, clobbering 56 in a 100-run ninth-wicket partnership after tea, having worn a tempestuous short-pitched assault from Australia's frustrated quicks.
Cook managed only 83 runs from the previous three Tests, when Australia established an unassailable 3-0 lead. And he admitted he could have been dropped for the final Ashes Test had he not silenced the doubters.
"I always feel I have the backing of the selectors, but you have to deliver the goods," the 33-year-old told the BBC.
"I hadn't done that on this tour. I would have been entitled to be dropped."
Australia coach Darren Lehmann conceded they could not win even with two days left.
"We are just being outplayed by a better side at the moment," he said. "We are 164 runs behind, we would have to score 450 runs in a day, we have to worry about getting past them first."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
4TH ASHES TEST
Day 4: Singtel TV Ch123 & StarHub Ch236, 7.30am