Alastair Cook joined iconic Australian batsman Don Bradman on 29 Test centuries with a thoroughly impressive performance at Emirates Old Trafford on Friday (22 July). A masterful Joe Root also chalked up his 10th ton and the duo recorded a second-wicket stand of 185 as England recovered from the early loss of Alex Hales and nullified the threat of formidable leg-spinner Yasir Shah to control day one of their second Test against Pakistan.
The hosts, seeking to avenge the 75-run defeat suffered at Lord's last week, brought back James Anderson and Ben Stokes at the expense of Jake Ball and Steven Finn but elected not to play Adil Rashid. The Yorkshire bowler was called into an extended 14-man squad earlier this week amid concerns over Moeen Ali's lackluster form with the ball, but Cook kept faith in the latter and chose not to deploy two spinners.
After England had ended Misbah-ul-Haq's record of eight consecutive successful tosses and elected to bat first, Mohammad Amir, treated to a more hostile and mocking reception with repeated cries of "no ball", struck an early blow with an inswinging delivery that uprooted Hales' middle stump after driving through a large gap between bat and pad.
Cook and Root admirably steadied the ship after that morning setback, however, steering England to 95-1 at lunch on a flat pitch before both sealing their respective half-centuries. The skipper continued to bat very well indeed and celebrated his latest Test ton in euphoric fashion before finally falling for 105 in the final over before tea when edging a delivery from Amir on to his own stumps.
James Vince, who only retained his precarious place in the side as a result of the decision not to play two spinners, replaced him at the crease and was handed a huge reprieve on six when an edge off Amir was dropped by Younus Khan at slip. The Hampshire stalwart inexplicably failed to learn his lesson and made only 12 more runs before attempting another foolish drive outside off up against Rahat Ali that carried behind to wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed.
A typically composed Root brought up his century soon after and finished the day nine short of his 150. Chris Woakes was sent in as nightwatchman and closed on two not out after Gary Ballance had tried to cut a short one from Rahat but also ended up chopping the ball on to his own stumps. That dismissal gave Pakistan a glimmer of hope, but Shah, who helped himself to a 10-wicket haul at Lord's, struggled with figures of none for 111 from his 31 overs. Wahab Riaz also endured a day to forget with multiple no balls.
England's impressive start was the ideal tonic after that opening loss and a distracting row regarding the fitness of Anderson, who believed he was ready to feature in the first Test after a stress fracture of the right shoulder blade suffered against Sri Lanka. It was reported that Cook and coach Trevor Bayliss were willing to accept his decision before being effectively overruled by selectors James Whitaker, Angus Fraser and Mick Newell. Cook subsequently described the affair as "slightly messy" and a "sideshow".