Alastair Cook completes rare feat of endurance at Ashes

England's Alastair Cook celebrates making 200 runs against Australia during the third day of their Ashes cricket test match in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
England's Alastair Cook runs out against Australia at the start of the fourth day of their Ashes cricket test match in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
England's Alastair Cook prepares to run out against Australia at the start of the fourth day of their Ashes cricket test match in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

MELBOURNE, Australia — One ball was all it took for England opener Alastair Cook to complete one of cricket's greatest feats of endurance.

After holding Australia's bowlers at bay for more than 10½ hours, Cook's marathon innings in the fourth Ashes test finally ended on Friday, when he ran out of batting partners.

Nine of his teammates had already come and gone before play resumed and his last partner Jimmy Anderson was dismissed off the very first delivery of the day, leaving a stranded Cook unbeaten on 244 at the non-striker's end.

Despite not facing another ball, Cook left the sprawling Melbourne Cricket Ground field to applause from supporters of both teams after he had produced a masterful display of grit and determination to carry his bat through the entire innings.

While arguably not as glamorous as making a huge score, carrying the bat — the term for when an opening batsmen remains not out after each of his 10 teammates is dismissed — through a complete innings is one of the rarest and most difficult feats in test cricket, requiring great skill, concentration and a slice of luck.

Cook had all three of those elements during his innings, surviving two dropped catches along the way.

The feat has been achieved just 52 times since the first test was played in 1877.

Cook became the first player from any country to carry his bat at the MCG, the sport's oldest venue, having hosted the game's inaugural test, and the first batsman to do it in an Ashes series since England's Geoffrey Boycott finished 99 not out at Perth in 1979.

The last Englishman to carry his bat in any test was Mike Atherton, who did it against New Zealand in Christchurch 20 years ago, making 94 not out.

Cook also posted the highest score by a player to carry his bat, with his 244 not out eclipsing New Zealander Glenn Turner's unbeaten 223 in 1972. Cook accounted for almost half of England's runs, with Joe Root's 61 the next best score, and faced a total of 409 balls, hitting 27 boundaries.

It was his 32nd test century of his career and took him to sixth place on the list of all-time run scorers, ending a barren run in the series so far.

Cook had managed a total of just 83 runs in the three previous tests as England lost the first three tests of the five-match series to surrender the Ashes at Perth's WACA ground 10 days ago.

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