Sunday, 17 December 2006

Cook shows he is not Ian Bell 2005 Mark 2

A lot has been said about Alastair Cook being Ian Bell 2005 Mark 2. After a highly difficult opening half to the series, the 21-year-old displayed courage, patience and no little skill in battling to a superb maiden Ashes hundred. The great shame, however, was Glenn McGrath getting him in the third last over of the day. Inevitably, the decision to utilise Matthew Hoggard as a night watchman backfired, leaving England five wickets down overnight.

Cook’s 116 encapsulated the courage and determination necessary to save Tests, an art seemingly lost in this era of gung-ho batting. His century was his 4th, the highest number ever by an Englishman prior to turning 22. He had huge trouble against Shane Warne, but his patience and willingness to play within his limitations, aided by his phlegmatic character, saw him to a fantastic ton.

One silver lining in the wake of Marcus Trescothick’s tumultuous exit from the tour was seen as being the presence of Cook, better against seam than spin, at the top of the order. In fact, Cook has had problems dealing with balls angled across him from McGrath and especially the excellent Stuart Clark. But Cook, whose Test average now sits at 49, certainly proved today that the initial hope will prove justified.

His partnership with Ian Bell, who brought the authority and confidence he displayed against Pakistan in the summer, left Australia largely clueless as to how to take wickets. Such a shame, then, that overconfidence overcame Bell before reaching a deserved first Ashes hundred. He has made five fifties against Australia; but, alas, still no hundred.

Cook now has, and the duo will surely be invaluable at the top of the order for years to come. But, with both dismissed, it will fall on the less attritional skills of Kevin Pietersen and the chronically out-of-form Andrew Flintoff to keep England in this series.


Chrispy said...

Promising for the future. Cook has the attributes to be one of the best. When Michael Vaughan returns though it might be worth returning him to three and pushing Bell down to four as altho Belly has improved immensely he still doesn't convert enough scores for number three. And Cook coming in at three always has such a calming and reassuring presence, whilst Vaughan has undoubtedly played his best cricket as opener. There is also the associated LH, RH combination benefits as a side issue.

Tim Wigmore said...

That's an interesting idea, although I would advocate Pietersen at four, Bell five, Collingwood six and Flintoff seven.

Nick Gammons said...

Cook is already a fine player at 21 and has shown in this series that he can learn and improve. I'm not sure about moving him from the opening berth, though I agree he would be a better three than Bell, who looks at his best in the middle order. I tend to agree with Tim. Flintoff at seven makes sense when he can bowl his normal allocation of overs. With Panesar in the team England can afford to play four bowlers, with Pietersen, Collingwood and Bell chipping in, if necessary. The fifth bowler is a luxury when they bowl so few overs as Mahmood in the third Test.

The Enigma said...

Trescothick is really going to struggle to find a place in the side, and so he should. He has let the team down one too many times. Cook is a talented player who has done well in tough situations.

I've just linked you. :>

Chrispy said...

Cooky is obviously a fine opener too and scored a a fabulous 250 odd for Essex against the aussies, but he really stabilised England at three over the summer in a way that Vaughan often did not. If Bell or Vaughan were at three I would be more nervous, put it that way, but maybe what we are really saying is that Cook is better than both, hence should be higher up.

Flintoff at seven is a must and I have wanted that to happen since the summer began. One streaky fifty I'm afraid just hasn't changed my mind. He averages 32, same as Shaun Pollock, a bowling allrounder. Where does Pollock bat? 8! Could bat 7 and that is where Fred must be, then he can come out and play his streaky innings and hopefully some might come off like Gillys. There is less pressure to score consistantly at 7, although Geraint Jones will tell you otherwise!

And as I personally feel that Colli is the weakest technically of the five batsman at present he must drop down the order to split KP and Flintoff. He is not good enough for four if the pitch is not a dead flat track. Trescothick and Joyce will be targetting Colli. Whether it is Bell or KP who plays four or five I don't mind really. If KP prefers five then give him what he wants, but he is certainly capable of four and Bell has his best scores at five and six.

Surely Read, Davies or Prior will get a long chance now. And maybe we might see Broad sooner rather than later. One thing is for certain Saj Mahmood is not up to the task as we feared before the series started. Unfortunately he was the next best option in the squad. The two real options are sat in the academy squad twiddling their thumbs - Tremlett and Broad of course.

Tim Wigmore said...

Have to agree about Broad and Tremlett. I can accept the selection of Mahmood but I will never know why Liam Plunkett was selected instead of one of them.

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