Does Alastair Cook know that captains are allowed off the field? If he doesn’t, no-one tip him off, because it’s going quite well. In five Tests leading England, he’s now scored five hundreds.
He even hit some nice shots today, which isn’t really the point. An Alastair Cook innings shouldn’t feature eye-catching moments – they’re distracting. The genius is in the whole.
You don’t watch him bat and identify a straight six as being the mark of quality (although it was a bloody nice shot). His brilliance actually lies in the fact that he becomes commonplace.
“Oh look, Cook’s batting.” You would never say that. You probably wouldn’t even say it sarcastically, because that would imply that the fact is in some way worth remarking upon. It isn’t. If England are batting, why wouldn’t Alastair Cook be at the crease? It is simply the way things are.
On current form, to be amazed at an Alastair Cook hundred would be like being amazed by a poor management decision or the setting of the sun.16 Appeals
Following on, with plenty of time left in the game, it was a day for slow twitch muscle fibres. England needed batsmen to show endurance and so it was perhaps unsurprising that the cyclist (Matt Prior) and the player they say is England’s fittest (Alastair Cook) were the ones to put in a long shift.
It’s not like the other batsmen are liable to physically collapse should they remain at the crease for more than 20 minutes (although it currently seems like this assumption will never be tested). Playing a long innings isn’t about that kind of endurance. It’s more that a tired body tends to conserve energy by limiting the resources provided to the brain and feet.
However, England can expect danger in the morning for the corollary of this. The cumulative effect of very small deteriorations in elements of India’s bowling and fielding means that batting gets decidedly easier as the day wears on. A yard of pace, an iota of rip, an inch of width, a slower sprint – all of these things contribute. Then, the next day when the players are rested, everything is reset.
England’s first innings began with three quick wickets; the first session of day three featured four wickets; and the first session of day four featured three wickets. These periods of play have been when almost all of England’s specialist batsmen have been dismissed. After that, things seem to get just a little bit easier.
As a cycling fan, Matt Prior will know all about the aggregation of marginal gains. He and Alastair Cook will need to witness this aggregation of marginal losses from the batting crease tomorrow if England are to have any hope of saving this Test match.7 Appeals
Not unless he’s down the order.
Some have suggested resting Alastair Cook because he made a hundred in the first warm-up match and so presumably doesn’t need the practice. Being as Nick Compton made a duck, it is felt that England might now want to see how Joe Root fares in order to give themselves an alternative.
This is wrong. For one thing, looking at other options this early on undermines a new player (Compton) when he should be supported. Also, Alastair Cook may have made a hundred, but England’s probable first Test opening partnership has made just two runs together. Ever.
You don’t decide a bloke can’t bat after he’s made a duck. If he makes a few ducks, okay, there’s a certain weight of evidence, but a single innings of nought offers virtually no information on its own.
A three-ball duck is curt and bland. A truly flawed batsman aspires to more than this. He hangs around for a few overs, plays himself in and then continues playing and missing and choosing the wrong shots even once his feet are moving and he’s familiar with the bowlers. That’s how you catch the eye and mark yourself out as a real top drawer incompetent.16 Appeals
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We believe this photo provides a window into the future, even though it was actually taken in the past. It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what it is, but basically most of the people in it look like dads.
Matt Prior is comfortably successful, middle-aged spread dad. Ian Bell is his son.
Stuart Broad is with his dad, Graham Onions. Graham has had a mid-life crisis and therefore always wears a leather jacket, even when it is manifestly inappropriate to do so.
Jimmy Anderson is looking awkward and holding a pashmina shawl for his wife while she catches up with her friends. He doesn’t really know what to do with himself, so he just stands there.
Alastair Cook is the weirdest of all. He is sleazy lothario dad. He wears lurid shirts to complement his permatan and he always leaves a couple of buttons undone.19 Appeals
Hello South Africa and welcome to England. This is Alastair Cook. He is fitter than you are. We’re not sure you’re going to get on very well.
Thus far, South Africa have had a fairly typical experience of touring England. It has rained and Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott have batted for bloody ages. The Saffers took an early wicket, but you need at least two against England to really be in business.
If you want to win Tests in England, you’re heavily reliant on your seam bowlers but bowling at Cook and Trott is like attacking an industrial sander with a plank of wood. You jab at it again and again and eventually all you’re left with is a nub. Then Kevin Pietersen walks to the crease and surveys you with disdain. It’s not a complex tactic.
Cook’s extraordinary stamina has one purpose. He has developed it so that he can do what he already does only for slightly longer. That’s it. He doesn’t want to run marathons or anything. He just wants to ensure that his feet move the same at 6pm as they do at midday. It seems to work.
If we have a word of reassurance for South Africa, it’s that England are so heavily reliant on this method that Plan B is a good deal worse. The batting line-up is built on the principle that the top three will grind down the opposition bowlers to some degree. Get through the the top order and you introduce the other batsmen to a terrifying land of pace and movement that they are largely unfamiliar with.
But today? 267-3 isn’t really doing the job. And don’t pin your hopes on weariness from Cook tomorrow either.13 Appeals
And after all of 12 matches, Steven Finn would seem to be their best bowler. How do you feel about these things? Angry or amazed?
Before this series, each of Sky’s commentary team picked their preferred England one-day side. We weren’t really paying attention (cooking, eating, playing games or just zoning out most likely) but we’re pretty sure at least one of them didn’t want Alastair Cook in the team. Whoever it was – if it was anyone – wanted Craig Kieswetter opening instead, because of his ‘big shots’ or something like that.
The person who may or not have said this is clearly wrong. Craig Kieswetter may well have bigger shots, but he generally only gets to play five of them. Alastair Cook plays dozens of his slightly smaller shots and scores hundreds. He middles the ball into gaps. It’s what you’re supposed to do.10 Appeals
Teams have used any number of different approaches when trying to get Alastair Cook out in the last year. Pretty much all of them have failed. Of the 2,855 deliveries he’s faced in Test cricket since this time last year, 17 of them have got him out.
Today, India tried to get the better of him via pity. They dropped catches, bowled medium-pace, gave overthrows and looked dejected throughout the day.
“What d’ya make of that, Cooky?” they seemed to be saying. “Feeling guilty?”
Cook punched the ball into the legside and took another single.
Cook doesn’t care. It’s not his job to care. We can see him in 20 years time, playing cricket down the drive with his nine-year-old son. Cook’s batting.
His son gets bored after an hour and starts getting tetchy. Cook punches the ball into the legside and takes another single. A few hours later, his son’s crying and his wife’s pleading with him to go easy on the boy. Cook punches the ball into the legside and takes another single.
As a dad, he’s an arsehole. As an England opening batsman, he’s mint.30 Appeals
No comments as yet on our latest Cricinfo article.
We predict that at least one of the first ten will be about how Alastair Cook isn’t actually all that good and how Virender Sehwag’s better.
The other nine will be asking whether the article is supposed to be funny or not.19 Appeals
For us, this is the biggest positive to have come out of England’s one-day series win against Sri Lanka. In one-day cricket, your opening batsmen are pretty much your most important players and England have rarely had a decent, settled partnership.
The run-up to the last World Cup was pretty typical. Mere weeks away from the event, Steven Davies opened, then Matt Prior, before Kevin Pietersen was given the job after a scissors-paper-stone marathon involving everyone who made it to breakfast at the team hotel one particular morning.
The chopping and changing never seems to end and England rarely start a 50-over match without feeling like they’re two wickets down before a ball is bowled. No starts, slow starts and bad starts – those are the ways in which England start their innings. Cook and Kieswetter haven’t done this.
Who knows, they might actually start to get used to each other. If they make a complete arse of the job against India later in the summer, can we maybe just give them the benefit of the doubt? The abiding suspicion that the grass is greener elsewhere rather overlooks an English one-day opening landscape that is as lush as that bit of the moon where Buzz Aldrin spilt bleach.8 Appeals
Many of you will say Alastair Cook proved us wrong by hitting 95 off 75 balls against Sri Lanka.
Our point was actually that you shouldn’t open with an anchor in one-day cricket. We say that your sensible batsman, your banker, should come in at three or four.
We kind of assumed that Alastair Cook would always play the anchor role, because up until now, he has. Yet in the fourth one-day international, he didn’t. He played like a proper one-day opener. If he can do that, we’re fine with his opening.
Open, hit the ball, score runs. We’re not against Alastair Cook; we’re against consolidating from the outset.
Playing the situation
Three years ago, we said that Cook would make a one-day cricketer. We said that a batsman who plays according to the situation is a good batsman and just because you only see him in one family of situations (Test cricket) doesn’t mean he doesn’t have it in him to play differently in another environment.
However, most of Cook’s one-day innings thus far have been kind of cloggy. The slog-sweep he brought in seemed like a one-note nod to more expansive cricket. Like a bad husband who brings flowers every week, it had the air of being an apologetic gesture designed to distract from other shortcomings rather than being anything more meaningful.
But this innings was better. We wouldn’t say we’re sold on Cook as a one-day opener, but we’re more impressed with him as a cricketer. He’s broadened his range.
Have we made ‘range’ a thing yet?23 Appeals