This really wasn’t the way it was supposed to go was it, that is if you were one of the pie-eyed masses who believed the highly skewed rhetoric coming from our administrators and from our chums in the media in the wake of 4 years ago. This was meant to be the redemption tour, even more so, the Cook redemption tour where our glorious past leader threw off the shackles of captaincy and put the Aussies to the sword as England romped home victorious. Except miracles don’t happen like that, there may be those that chose to believe this rhetoric more through blind hope than realism, totally immune to the fact that Cook has struggled for the past few years; however the rest of us (or the Anti-Cook brigade as many of us have been listed) were scolded for daring to question the darling of the media and applying a more leveled view of the former Captain’s situation. I hate to say I told you so, but…well you can work out the rest.
I deliberately haven’t gone all guns blazing on Cook in the past (even though it’s a chime that is often leveled against me) as although I still believe he was complicit in the forced removal of England’s former South African born batsman, it was more the administrator and media cover up that made me particularly angry rather than Cook’s antics. All the talk of Cook being the best batsman the world has ever seen, the endless hagiography’s, the whispering campaigns and Cook’s own stubborn refusal to believe that he should have been dropped for the 2015 World Cup seriously got my goat; however my own personal view is that Cook is just a little bit thick, a little bit dull and way in over his head more than he ever believed. He was a terrible captain, unable to either raise the troops or with enough acumen to make a serious difference in the field, hence why the term ‘let it drift’ will be synonymous with a picture of dear Cookie in years to come.
This however, is not about my personal opinions on Cook the person or Cook the captain, this is purely about Cook the batsman. I was casually searching for a few stats on Cook the other day and some of the stats surprised even me (though they might not surprise some of the more avid followers on the site):
- Cook’s last match winning century: 243 vs. West Indies at Edgbaston, August 2017
- Cook’s last match winning century against either SA, Australia or India: 190 vs. India at Eden Gardens, December 2012
- Cook’s last century against Australia: 189 vs Australia, at SCG, December 2011
- 7 Century’s in the last 107 innings
- Current average in this Ashes series: 13.85
No doubt I will be accused by some of ‘Cook Maths’ and yes, I have cherry picked certain stats, but the case remains that Cook hasn’t scored a match winning century against one of the big 3 (SA included) for over 5 years. England’s so called best player and rock, who has seen off more opening partners than I’ve had hot dinners, is nothing but a flat track bully. He reminds me of why the Aussies used to call John Crawley ‘2nd innings Charlie’, always there to score slightly meaningless runs but disappears off the radar once tough runs need to be scored. This is where 2013 was so important. Cook by and large, apart from the very odd drop off in form, was England’s premier player, scorer of centuries and obstinate rock at the top of the order before 2013. It could be argued back then that he was a world class player. 2013 changed this though, as the Australian attack blunted Cook firstly in the Ashes series over in England and then blew him apart in the return leg some 4 months later. It was Mitchell Johnson, who got many of the plaudits for that series, but it was Ryan Harris that provided the blueprint for every single bowler in International cricket to follow and in the end it was a pretty simple plan to follow. Keep the ball pitched up on and around off stump with the odd variation outwards for it to swing and inwards to catch him LBW. Short balls are occasionally permitted, but they need to be quick and straight and provide him with no opportunity to free his arms. Leg side half volleys were definitely off the agenda.
It was a mantra that everyone bar the weakest of international bowling attacks have managed to follow, negating Cook’s strengths against seam bowling and leaving him desperately reliant on slow, dead pitches such as the one in Abu Dhabi to post a serious score. As Chris mentioned in his last article, it seems that the press have belatedly woken up to the fact that Cook is no more than an excellent county pro and mediocre international and has been for the past 4 years. We have yet to see the whispering campaigns such as his eyes have gone or his heart has gone as Ian Bell had to endure recently, particularly from a rather bitter ex-Chief Correspondent (KP kindly leant with that angle in the build up to the last Test), but the odd one or two have delicately mentioned that this series could and probably should be his last; though naturally we have the odd dinosaur still beating the drum:
The truth is that there was never going to be a Cook redemption tour. The supporting cast are simply not good enough and Cook’s form and inability to change his game against the set bowling plans that have been his downfall in the past has seen his form dip from ‘worrying’ to ‘terminal decline’. It’s true that even the very best get worked out from time to time, but the very best adapt. Cook neither has the aptitude or willingness to do such a thing. He no longer has the media hagiography’s supporting him, though he does always seem to be pretty immune from criticism (remember it was Malan’s fault for not scoring 300 in the last Test or digging out Joe Root for being an inexperienced captain), but for how long this will continue, that no-one can be sure. There is going to be fallout from this series, even more should we capitulate to a 5-0 defeat and we no longer have a useful idiot (KP) or a useless idiot (Downton) to protect Cook from some of the rightful criticism that will come his way. Will he walk away? Who knows, but surely the media can’t be as complicit as they were 4 years ago.
This tour, apart from being decidedly predictable, has confirmed what many of us had seen through our own eyes (and not through the rose-tinted spectacles many had chosen to view things as). Cook was a great international batsman, a scorer of a plethora of centuries, the rock of the 2010 Ashes victory in Australia; however that was more than 4 years ago and father time waits for no-one, certainly not one who would most certainly have been dropped if he didn’t have his past record to fall back on (let’s just say that had Stoneman had performed like Cook, he would be spending his winter elsewhere).
The SCG should be the place where Cook retires from International cricket and sails off into the sunset. There will still be a lot of soul searching after this series but at least by this point we might be able to put to bed one of the ghosts that have haunted English cricket for the past four years. How the cricket world views Cook in 5 years time could be very interesting to see.
“Cook’s last match winning century: 243 vs. West Indies at Edgbaston, December 2017”
I know the ECB are keen to burn out the players by playing too many test matches but having to fly back to the UK in between game sin Australia seems a bit much. No wonder the poor dear (deer?) can’t score a run.
Sack the proof reader. (Me). Corrected.
I know you’ve tried to avoid this stuff but what annoyed me most was management making people like Hameed, basically a debutant and looking all of about 12 years old, come out and say how much they backed him/nay loved him. Effing disgraceful.
And then someone (I can’t remember whether it was Farbsy or Baylissy) saying how great Dear Alistair was in the dressing room.
You wouldn’t have believed shite like that would have been put about even 3 years ago.
AND I am still awaiting his long promised explanation about KP (which, if my ears heard him correctly in that BBC puff piece, he was desperate to tell us about as soon as the legal moratorium was lifted).
“There will be a time in the not too distant future when I can give you the whole side of my story but I hope you can bear with that a little longer”.
We’ve been bearing with him for nearly four years.
Erm ….. Shite like that was being put about 3 years ago:
“We felt strongly that all his experience, all his toughness, would come out. Bear in mind as well that he’s gone through a traumatic summer in terms of the pressure on him, but in doing so that dressing room is very much his dressing room in a way it could never have been before.”
Thanks to the great Downton
You’re right, I meant 4!
If we ever hear Cook’s side of the story, it will come post-career and most likely in an auto-biography written in conjunction with Paul Newman.
The counter argument is that Kallis and Tendulkar went through similar lean patches at a similar age, and came back stronger.
Ponting just went downhill.
The problem is the CC isn’t the place to understand whether Cook is ‘back in form’. He was excellent in the CC, but the pace of bowlers is well down in the CC. It’s no serious test for Cook.
I’m unconvinced that England have 3 better top 3 batsmen than Cook. I’ve been saying for years (since 2013 and Trott’s departure) that he should drop down to 3, and I see nothing to revise that opinion. I’m unconVINCEd by James (geddit?).
I think you hit on a real problem with English cricket at the moment. We have no method to trust in judging players on form (and seemingly, to recall my hobby horse, fitness too.)
CC just isn’t challenging enough for good batsmen/doesn’t provide a proper arena for quicks and spinners. The coaches and selectors seemingly don’t have the Fletcher eye for “what it takes at international level.”
It’s obvious when you apply some critical vision that Cook is out of form. It’s true that he might get back in form, but the Test team isn’t the place for that. Problem is, there is no intermediate. And I think this problem links into all the other problems England has around players with form and fitness.
With no meaningful intermediate level, there’s nowhere to prove yourself. So there’s no trustworthy route back into the side. Which means players naturally cling on for grim death and selectors likewise feel guilty casting players out into the darkness, knowing that there is no obvious way back.
Broad is a classic case here IMO, if we are to believe the leaks about his physical state.
I’d agree that Cook remains probably one of the talented candidates for the top 3 batting positions, but he’s averaging 13 at the moment. He’s not going to be worth of a place until he sorts himself out. I really don’t see that e.g. Robson (or even Hameed) couldn’t average 13 and at least they’d be learning for the future…
“CC just isn’t challenging enough for good batsmen/doesn’t provide a proper arena for quicks and spinners”
Hence my argument that I’ve been banging on about for years, we need a level between the CC and test cricket. Take the 8 or 10 most successful counties, and promote them to an elite division, where they play 5 day games against each other on the same schedule as a test match (ie 2 per month). Allow 3 overseas players per team, and encourage some teams to prepare different types of pitches (ie friendly to spin and/or pace, use different balls, and schedule games all through the summer.
Replace them in the CC with 8-10 of the best minor counties, which keeps going as a place for new young English players to break through, and treat the CC as a feeder system to the elite league (with official relationships between one elite county and 2-3 neighbouring championship counties), and the elite league then acts as a proving ground for test cricket.
“Problem is, there is no intermediate”.
Are you suggesting the Lions or the ECB’s North-South brainstorm aren’t fit for purpose!
But weren’t the Lions and two divisions supposed to be exactly that?
Are you thinking 3 because he’s vulnerable to the new ball? Hmm. Interesting thought. I guess it would need to have a couple of openers who were competent enough to be able to open and get through that period.
I’ve always felt Cook even at his best to be a highly peculiar opener, excessively vulnerable to pace, but a genuinely excellent player of spin.
He only averaged 32 on the last tour to the subcontinent. If he ever was a “genuinely excellent player of spin”, he hasn’t been for a few years now.
I don’t think that it is true that Kallis and Sachin went through such a prolonged bad patch in terms of making hundreds against tough teams as has happened with cook. sachin did go through a phase with no hundreds when he left but by then everyone knew he was done.
I can’t find any spell of ten innings without a fifty in Kallis’s career. He went 20 Test with only one century 2007-09 but that century was away in India, he made six fifties as well (three against Australia) and there’s the issue that he offered a bit more in the field than picking his nose at slip.
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I think also a comparison between Cook and Sach/Kallis is a little unreasonable because Sach and Kali’s are in a bit of a different class. Cook is someone who has strained to make the most of his natural ability, but never had near the sheer talent of the other two.
I’m pointing out players have lean spells. Often extended ones. I remember Tendulkar s. Everyone thought he was done.
Cook could come back. Better. It’s happened.
I wouldn’t bet on it. But he could.
Even though I didn’t expect Cook to do very much this series, for the reasons that you very well set out above Sean, I’m not sure I would have expected him to be so completely telephone numbers as he’s become. Even in the South Africa series, there was still signs of his application being top notch, even if his technique wasn’t. Yes, I know that a few of you have been critical with all the usual suspects giving so much worth to his 88 v SA, but I did think that was a very fine innings nonetheless that allowed Stokes to get into gear.
I was probably as vociferous as anyone on here with regard to him having never been the same player after the back to back series 4 years ago and how he had obviously slipped. I also agree that his record before that time was obviously top notch. I mean 25 tons after 92 tests WAS up there with many elite players. But, but…….. it is difficult to keep referring to something that was in the ever more distant past and not in any way commensurate with what was unfurling before our eyes.
Once a decline sets in there is always likely to be a point where it goes beyond the point of no return. That time may well be now and that Cook has hardly been committal in setting out that he wants to go on and on. I suspect that if he wanted to stay, ECB wouldn’t be having that quiet word in his ear just yet, but Cook himself may not want endure more time of diminishing returns. Maybe he may come to a point where he just doesn’t enjoy it any more, but who knows?
Up to a point Root has had a series only a little more successful than Cook had four years ago in terms of his batting form, yet I don’t think he’s been found as wanting technically at this point, just possibly down and with the weight of the world on his shoulders. However those with more of a handle on batting technique may wish to disagree.
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Mike Atherton knew when to walk away. One bad series against Aus (2001, where he returned 2 50s and no tons) and he said enough was enough. He could have stayed another few years and cashed in cheap runs against weak opponents, but he had the pride and dignity to stop when he was at (or only just past) the top of his game.
If we’re honest, that is what Cook should have done after the 2013/14 Ashes
I disagree. He’s averaged, er, 42, I think, since that Ashes series.
We haven’t been blessed with solid openers in that period.
He was within his rights to stay on. But we should, obviously, have stuck with KP too. And Cook should have swallowed the pill and dropped down to 3.
Robson, Root, Cook, KP, Ballance, Bell, a fit wicket keeper, Rashid, 3 fit quicks
would have been a fine, fine side, IMHO, and a side which could develop (give Rashid and Robson a long run, bring Stokes in for one of KP/Ballance/Bell, develop a wicket keeper of Test quality, recognise that Root opens for Yorkshire, is the best batsman in England and therefore is likely, in the long run, to be the best opener out there…)
Atherton could easily have carried on for a few more years and averaged 42, (as long as he avoided facing McGrath), but the point is, its because high quality batsmen like him, Thorpe and Hussain took the decision to retire earlier rather than later, that we were able to have a young, settled side in place for the 2005 Ashes (although I argued at the time that Thorpe should have been in that team ahead of Bell)
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While I don’t disagree, the absence of a settled side now isn’t due to Cook hanging around. It’s due to the selectors being fucking useless.
How many openers, number 3s and number 5s have we had since 2013?
Certainly a lot of people have found it very difficult trying to bat alongside Cook, yes.
Batting is about partnerships. Perhaps he is just a peculiarly difficult man to have a batting partnership with?
I was never bothered who was at the other end. I was in my bubble. Briefly.
It does make one wonder what international attacks were up to 2009-13 that they couldn’t work out what is a fairly obvious plan to counter Cook’s method? One look at his grip showed that he was going to find driving anything other than a rank half-volley very difficult.
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You could say the same of Smith. Indeed, we keep saying stuff like that about Smith, and he keeps making runs.
Whatever Cook’s technique, from debut to 2012 he made it work.
It clearly isn’t working now.
I’d love to see someone trying something properly radical to Smith, like bowling only middle stump yorkers to a 3-7 field. What have you got to lose?
Is Smith’s unorthodoxy the same though? It seems to me that Smith is unorthodox in his trigger movements but when he hits the ball everything is very correct.
I’m not sure I’d agree also with the point made earlier about it being Ryan Harris who worked out Cook in 2013. I remember Steyn and Philander using the same method in 2012 after Cook’s first innings’ ton at the Oval and they got him cheaply five times on the trot.
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I guess one factor is that Cook is particularly weak on quick, bouncy pitches. The 2010/11 Ashes were unusual in that the conditions were a lot more English in nature (partly to offset the risk of Swann).
They were English like conditions because of the very wet Australian summer. Why would they need to have prepared pitches to offset Swann when, as any of us fools can tell you , English finger spinners very rarely do well in Australia……..
Of course, yes, how silly of me. I don’t know why we even bother taking them on the plane.
Incidentally, if I’m coming across as a Cook fan, I am. I am a fan of Cook, the batsman. He is (or at least was) a very fine batsman, and while he doesn’t sit in the Pantheon with Hutton, Hobbs and Sutcliffe, he isn’t far off.
I don’t buy into this “He deserves to pick his own time” BS (he’d still be ODI captain now if we let him). But I’m also not keen on ditching a 33 year old with pedigree, without a better player out there.
There doesn’t seem to be much sense in taking Cook to NZ, where he will get eaten alive by Boult, Southee and Wagner. But perhaps if he can go away, work on his technique, make some runs for Essex (noting above that this isn’t obviously a great test of form) and see if he can fight his way back into the side, at 2 or 3.
(On a side note, seems to me Cookie is in a bit of a sticky patch. After the last Ashes we dropped a 33 year-old batsman who’d once been great, but had averaged only 39 over the previous 2 years. Cookie will be 33 on Christmas Day, and averages only 38 over the last 2 years)
Er. That;s a ramble. In summary: Baring a miracle, drop him at the end of the series and see if he can fight his way back into the side.
Cook HAS been a very fine batsman. The criticism he’s got has usually been around the way he’s been eulogised and all weaknesses ignored rather than anyone saying he isn’t a very fine player.
The last couple of years his technique has looked all at sea. He will be aware of it, no question, but he hasn’t seemed able to cure it.
I’m not sure I buy into it being down to age, eyes or that kind of thing, he just seems to have got into a real technical rut.
Sure, he’s always been stiff legged, but his great ability was to know what he could do and just stay in and accumulate rather than going after the ball. So many players have technical quirks – the Australian and South African Smiths for example – so it isn’t a matter of wishing him to turn into an MCC coaching manual, but his head and weight distribution is dire by his own standards.
I don’t see any reason why he can’t continue, but he needs to sort that out. I’m sure he knows that.
He’s always had a visibly dodgy technique
He’s always been a poor player of genuine pace bowling on fast pitches
He’s always been a poor on-field tactician
He’s always been a poor man-manager
He’s always had a good understanding of his own game
He’s always had fantastic powers of self-discipline and concentration
He’s always been very bloody minded and selfish (sometimes to the team’s benefit, sometimes to its detriment)
He’s always been a difficult man to bat with
He’s lucky that he has so rarely had to play against genuine pace bowling on fast pitches, and he’s lucky that he’s never really faced any serious competition for his place. He will go down as a very poor captain and a very good international batsman, but by no means an all-time great, despite what the stats might suggest.
I don’t think even the stats suggest all-time great, unless you focus solely on tons scored. And no one, I hope, thinks Ian Bell was a better batsman than Neil Harvey or Everton Weekes!
I think he’s quite along way off the pantheon of Hobbs & Hutton etc.
Is he in the top 10 English batsmen of all time? Its a question. Personally I would say no. Maybe top 20.
If you rank every English batsman who has scored over 4000 runs by average, he comes 12th, although personally, I think some of the batsmen below him from the 70s, 80s and 90s, who generally played against far superior attacks, were actually the better batsmen.
Just in case you think I am being down on Cook specifically, I also don’t think Root is the 6th greatest English batsmen of all time.
In no particular order Hutton, Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Barrington, Paynter, Hammond, Compton, May were all clearly better. Cowdrey, KP, Gower, Boycott, Gooch, Thorpe, Amiss, Smith are in the debate, I think. It’s certainly arguable that against the same attacks, Cook would have fared less well.
Did I miss anyone? No real idea how you’d judge the likes of Hendren and Leyland against current batsmen. And no one will ever know how good South-Africian-Born D’Oliveira would have been had he played for England from the age of 25.
100 likes for Silk’s sensible words. WG might want to be in there and I thought Graveney was pretty good
“We need to talk about Alastair…….”
Personally I think he’s quite over rated. And if he had played in the 1990s (much better bowling attacks than now) he would have struggled to make between 3000-5000 test runs. Would have been dropped quite often as well, like Hick and Ramprakash were. I would rather have any 2 from Atherton, Stewart, Gooch, Trescothick or even Strauss ahead of him opening the batting for my team of the last 30 years.
There, I have talked about Alastair.
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It is not just the lack of runs, but the way he is getting out that suggests his time is up. For a very conservative back foot batsman to keep getting out so far back in the crease would imply his timing, mobility, eyesight or all 3 are on the decline.
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Post-WW2 openers who played more than fifty Tests:
I’m not really hoping he plays on just long enough to push his average below Tres’s…. not really….
He’s already below very similar players such as Boycs and Lawry, who did not have the benefit of covered pitches and run ups throughout their careers
I guess John Edrich is not on the list because he sometimes batted at 3?
Yes, Edrich opened in 47 Tests so just missed the cut-off. He averaged 44.5 as opener.
I don’t think test cricket is dead……..yet! It’s the direction that things are moving is the problem.
Even some Australians are noticing that once again the Ashes is over before we get to the blockbuster Sydney and Melbourne test matches. They are now dead rubbers. Giant white elephants. Stadiums full of thousands of people watching a complete waste of time. Anyone arriving from the planet Zog would think we are out of our minds.
Some are asking if maybe The Perth or the Adelaide test match should come after Christmas and New Year. Which incidentally is when quite often the weather is hotter.
I’m sure the ECB will never agree to that. We have some 20/20 to play in NZ?
Tourism Australia were willing England on in the last Test, that’s for sure.
The ECB and a whole chunk of the media and some less-well-informed commenters seem convinced that its inevitably going to die because of some pseudoscientific nonsense about “modern attention spans” so they might as well get on with actively trying to hasten the end.
Ironically they may eventually succeed and hence will consider themselves to have been proven “correct”, but it still carries a lot of gravitas and affection, and its going to be far harder to kill than I think they realise.
I don’t believe the result is the most important attraction of a test match. OK I’m speaking for myself only but I love the atmosphere, the occasion, the arena, the live event which has one more dimension than anything on tv. Guess I’m saying the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd. A competent marketing department could build on that. However, the cost and the travelling does put me off.
I’d be surprised if the MCC, at least, ever let test cricket die. After all, a prestigious rich men’s club has to be protected
Australians will happily show up/tune in to see a whitewash. Time spent beating England is never wasted.
I think the most salient points (that have already been made) are that firstly, he’s not barring the way for anyone else coming in, secondly, he shouldn’t tour NZ.
Silk suggests the latter, but for me it’s not that he’ll get shredded by the Kiwi quicks that matters: rather, it’s more the good time away would do him. We made this mistake with Ian Bell, not giving him time off when he was clearly exhausted, and while we’ll never know if there was a year or two left in him, we certainly made sure there wouldn’t be.
Send him back to the farm where he can raise animals and kill other animals, and then in April see if that stubbornness, determination, hunger is still there, or whether (as it appears mow) he really might be done.
I think he’s earned that respect and chance, and we (the England team) need to know one way or another.
Agreed. Though as said above, a good spell at Essex might not be useful evidence that Cook is back to anywhere near his best.
There is a lot of focus on average but the opener particularly against good attacks has another job: at least get through a lot of balls.
So it would be one thing if he was sticking around for a while and getting out at 25 or 35 a lot having at least gotten through the first session.
(This type of observation extends – only half of the difference in the first innings in Perth was Smith and Marsh. The other half was 20s vs single digits and 40s vs 20s.)
To state the obvious, an in-form Cook would be an asset to England. But what can we do to get him performing again?
One option could be to skip the NZ tour. Whilst he is only playing Tests, he’s been ever present for over a decade now. A small break could do him good.
Another is to play him at #3, give him a new challenge.
Of course, it’s possible that neither of these options will work, that he doesn’t quite have the drive to continue international cricket (unintentionally of course, and it’s not a criticism of him). But it’s worth the try.
Reassuring interview with Stoneman in the guardian. Certainly saying the right things, but Marks says he actually believes it, and Stoneman does seem to be genuine.
Roots asked if I saw his second dig and whether I thought he looked ‘shot’ as was being suggested.
I did see it, and no, I didn’t think that. Firstly, when any ball keeps low, you always look like you’re not far enough forward. Secondly, I thought he looked like he’d been in the field for ages, and perhaps wasn’t used to that level of demand test cricket provides.
Thirdly, there’s a certain thing about his technique when he plays forward to straight balls – and it’s not just him, and I blame DRS.
Remember when Stokes got bowled twice by the West Indian quick whose name suddenly escapes me? It was a very good example of how modern batsmen have had to change their thechnique, getting the bat well infront of the pad. This means two things: firstly, a smaller stride, and secondly, it’s much harder to get your head over your hands when you play the ball. It all means that the ball doesn’t have to do much at all and there’s trouble. Also, if you’re tired and a bit flat footed, you’re hardly getting any stride in at all.
I think the English batsmen are exaggerating this method a little too much, and I think you can see that when comparing their techniques to players from other countries.
Anyway, I think it can make batsmen a bit more vulnerable when simply playing forward.
P.S. I think Sach and the Indian bats knew full well this was going to be a consequence of DRS, and I know Pietersen talked extensively on how it was changing batting completely. He said it took almost two years for him to adjust
I didn’t think he looked shot either. I remember he got roasted a couple of times and then hit the next ball for 4. What I saw was Aussies bowling a lot of superb balls at him – think Donald v Atherton. He’s not Atherton so didn’t win but I reckon he’ll be ready for the next.
Personally, watching Cook bat is a bit boring, not pleasing on the eye, ungainly, and awkward. It was nice watching him rack up tons in the first half of his career, knowing better to watch batsmen were coming in later. Now he is all of the above, increasingly ineffective, and can not be described as a long term prospect. I am all for dropping him. Preferably quite brutally.
He’s always, like Strauss, been excellent at politics. Ingratiating himself with the right people and manoeuvring himself into the right positiions.
Cowdrey was good at that, too.