Alastair Cook has had a fairytale farewell to his career, scoring a century in his final innings for the England Cricket team.
Cook has finished off his incredible career just the way it started, with a century on debut against India in Nagpur, now ending with a century against India at the Oval in the fifth test.
The opener brought up his triple figures in the most unusual way before lunch on day four, reaching the milestone courtesy of four overthrows after what was mean to be a cut to point for a single.
The crowd at the Oval rose as one, erupting into the greatest standing ovation for Cook that we all began to wonder, ‘will it ever stop?’.
Not only were the crowd cheering on their best ever opening batsmen, his teammates from the gauntry stood in awe as Cook achieved what many retiring players dream of doing in their final test.
Cook raised his bat to all corners of the crowd before celebrating in the middle of the pitch with his successor as Test captain Joe Root, who later on brought up his own century.
Not only did Cook finish on 147 runs, he also become the fifth highest test match run scorer, passing Kumar Sangakkara to now hold the position with 12,472 runs.
With this, Cook finishes the highest left-handed batsmen on the list and now has 33 test match centuries to his name.
After the days play, Cook said the crowd just wouldn’t stop cheering even after he took his stance ready for the next ball.
“It was phenomenal. It’s been the most surreal four days of my life. Every reception has been incredible,” Cook said.
“I’ve had bigger innings in more important games that have meant more but, on a purely emotional level, with so many friends and family here, I couldn’t have asked for a better week for me.
“People have said that the pressure is off. But, in a funny way, thinking about not getting out for nought or not getting out early every morning, has brought a different type of pressure. It’s a nice way to go.”
Cook now joins the elite company of Reggie Duff, Bill Ponsford, Greg Chappell and Mohammad Azharuddin who scored a century in their first and last test matchs.
Scoring 218 runs in his last test has made a few question if he is retiring too early, but Cook states it just confirms the decision in his mind.
“My decision was not just the culmination of three or four bad games. It’s been coming for 12 to 18 months. It’s not just about a bit of bad form; I’ve been through that before,” Cook said.
“I’ve spent all my life trying to play for England so to give it up is obviously a big thing. Chasing my dreams and playing for England is all I’ve ever known. But it was actually a really easy decision for me.
“Over the last 18 months, things have started to creep into my mind. Once I lost that edge, which has definitely happened in training, that decision was made for me. It’s a bit like the captaincy: when you know it’s right, it’s right.
“It’s just time. It’s time for me; it’s time for my family. It’s always nice when people want you just a bit more rather than kicking you out. To go out on my own terms makes it perfect.”
Everyone who managed to get a ticket to the fourth day will never forget the remarkable scenes that unfolded on the day, as beloved fast bowler James Anderson equaled Glenn McGrath’s record of most test wickets by a fast bowler.
The Barmy Army are considered one of sports greatest supporter groups, and Cook will be grateful for everything they’ve done for the team.
“Hearing your song on one of those tough away days – where we might be in the dirt for 150 overs – is amazing,” Cook said.
“They know how much we try whether we have a good day or a bad day. I’ve had unbelievable support from the Barmy Army and those last few minutes were very special.”
Cook will fittingly go out a winner after a dream ending to what has been an incredible 12-year career.
The tune of KC and The Sunshine’s Band ‘Baby Give It Up’ reworked by the Barmy Army to be tailored for Cook- “Ali, Ali Cook, Ali Cook, Ali, Ali Cook”- will forever remain in our heads.