England’s Alastair Cook claimed his third century and 700 runs for the series to further torment Australia’s bowlers on the third day of the final Ashes Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday.
Cook has been the outstanding batsman of the series and swelled his aggregate total to 707 at lunch.
Only Wally Hammond (905 in 1928-29) and Herbert Sutcliffe (734 in 1924-25) have amassed more runs for England in a series in Australia.
It was Cook’s third century of the series after an unbeaten 235 in the first Brisbane Test and 148 in Adelaide.
At lunch, England were 277 for five and trailing Australia by just three runs with Cook unbeaten on 130 and Ian Bell on 20.
The Essex left-hander survived a scare on 99 when close-in fielder Phillip Hughes claimed a catch off spinner Michael Beer, only for a referral to show that the ball had bounced just before the fielder’s hands.
It was Cook’s second close shave of his innings — both off debutant Beer — as England closed in on Australia’s first innings of 280 early on the third day.
Beer celebrated what he thought was his first Test wicket late on Tuesday when Cook, then on 46, skied to Ben Hilfenhaus at deep mid-on only for umpire Billy Bowden to ask for the third umpire to check on a suspected no-ball.
Replays showed the spinner had overstepped and Cook batted on.
Cook’s magnificent series was also a dramatic turnaround in personal fortunes after coming into this series averaging just 26.21 in Ashes contests against Australia.
Cook last toured Australia as a 21-year-old, scoring 276 runs at 27.60 as Australia swept the 2006-07 series 5-0.
Beer went on finally to claim his maiden Test wicket when he had the out-of-form Paul Collingwood caught in the deep for 13.
Collingwood, whose Test future is up the air after dismal batting returns in the series, tried to smash Beer down the ground only to skew high to a back-pedalling Hilfenhaus at mid-on.
The dismissal took his series tally to 83 from six innings and increased the pressure on him to hold his Test place.
Nightwatchman James Anderson was out 20 minutes into the third day when he was bowled by Peter Siddle for seven.