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.