Double ton in sight as Cook grinds England into lead

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Alastair Cook neared a double century as he profited on his second drop by Steve Smith to guide England to a 33-run innings lead on day three of the fourth Ashes Test on Thursday.

The veteran opener, back in the runs after a lean run, had a let-off on 153 to reach 173 not out at tea in Melbourne, with England 360 for six.

Batting partner Chris Woakes (26) put the tourists in front with a single off Nathan Lyon 40 minutes before the break as England ratcheted up the pressure on Australia, who have already secured the series with an unassailable 3-0 lead.

Smith, who dropped Cook on 66 in the slips on Wednesday, put down the former England skipper for the second time in a sharp right-handed chance at square leg off Pat Cummins to continue his misery.

Smith was reported to be suffering from a stomach complaint, similar to one that inflicted Cummins on Wednesday, and which took the skipper briefly from the field early in the day.

But it was all about Cook as he scored 150 or more for the 11th time in Tests to climb to the seventh-highest run scorer in Tests behind Sachin Tendulkar.

At tea, Cook had batted for 487 minutes and faced 319 balls in his 32nd Test century and was grinding away at Australia’s bowlers on a featherbed MCG pitch.

England lost two wickets in the middle session with Jonny Bairstow caught behind off Lyon for 22 and Moeen Ali lashing out for 20.

Root, playing in his 64th Test, has a 27% conversion rate of Test 50s to 100s

Moeen took on Lyon and was almost caught on the boundary rope by Cummins before the ball landed over the ropes for six.

Moeen continued to live on the edge before he found Shaun Marsh at short extra cover off Lyon to end his 14-ball cameo.

It was the sixth time in seven innings in the series that Moeen had been dismissed by fellow off-spinner Lyon.

Captain Joe Root yet again failed to convert a half-century into three figures when he top-edged a hook shot off Cummins to Lyon at deep square leg in the morning session.

Root reached his third half-century of the series but was clearly furious with himself when he holed out on 61.

Root, playing in his 64th Test, has a 27% conversion rate of Test 50s to 100s.

Dawid Malan, a century-maker in the third Test in Perth, was then out leg before wicket with Josh Hazlewood’s second delivery of the second new ball for 14.

Malan conferred with Cook before deciding not to review, yet replays showed a distinct ‘hot spot’ nick on his bat which would have kept him at the crease if he had challenged the decision.

It follows James Vince’s similar dismissal on Wednesday to Hazlewood for 17, when he also did not seek a review despite ‘hot spot’ showing a mark on his bat.