Alastair Cook We Salute You

I’ve never been Alastair Cook’s biggest fan. I doubt anyone has spent longer discussing his technical frailties against top class bowlers than me. At the end of the day, I just don’t like watching him bat. But I’ve loved and cherished every single second of his whitewash-avoiding double century in this match. My vocabulary doesn’t possess the superlatives to describe it.

In many ways Cook has been a punchbag for English cricket’s dissidents over the years. There was his role in the KP sacking – although I personally don’t think he played much part at all and simply followed orders – and Giles Clarke’s revolting “right kind of family” comments will probably haunt him forever. As a result, I wouldn’t be surprised if some England supporters covertly wanted him to fail in this match. They’ve waited years to put the boot in, and call for him to be dropped, and after an abysmal sequence of scores this year they probably though Cook was finally finished. They might have to rethink that one now!

The truth is that the England cricket team would be lost without Cook. He hasn’t always produced against the best, or stepped up when we’ve really needed him, for a long time. But he’s still the only player we’ve got who’s capable of digging in and really making the opposition pay. He doesn’t let teams off the hook (like Joe Root does so frequently) and I think he’s delightfully old school. Tom Harrison probably sees him as some kind of amusing anachronism.

Yes we can pick holes in Cook’s marathon effort. He was dropped twice by Steve Smith, should have picked up the fact that Dawid Malan and James Vince both got inside edges when they were dismissed lbw, and we can’t ignore that fact that conditions in this match were tailored made for Alastair – there was precious little seam movement, no spin, Australia were missing their fastest bowler and, of course, the Ashes had already gone.

However, no other England batsman took advantage of the situation, did they? All the other batsmen either weren’t good enough on the day or got themselves out to lazy shots. I’m looking at you Joe Root and Moeen Ali in particular. The truth is that Cook (with the possible exception of Malan) is the only batsman in the team capable of playing this kind of marathon signature innings. The others are all ‘modern batsman’ or products of England’s white ball revolution. They can all muscle the ball over the boundary in multiple ways, but they neglect the muscle that matters most: the one between their ears.

The fact is that Cook has almost singlehandedly saved England from a humiliating whitewash against a flawed Australian team than possesses three superb fast bowlers (when fit), the world’s best batsman, and precious little else. Did you see Jackson Bird bowl? There can’t be any strength in depth in Australian cricket if this is the best reserve seamer they’ve got.

Yes there’s still a long way to go in this game. England might still screw things up. But if England manage to win or draw this game I will be forever grateful to Alastair. He’s saved us from total humiliation, restored some pride, and shown his colleagues exactly how to construct a proper, disciplined test innings. Well played, sir. And don’t go retiring just yet.

James Morgan


  • Ok James agree but pity he did not do it before isn’t it? Ashes lost so really his double century is meaningless. Except to him of course. And now the ECB will say he is wonderful, the Cult of Alastair will be back and all is well with the team and Nothing Needs to be Done.

  • I blame Cricket Australia.

    I mean, the fact that Australia only made 327 on that pitch shows CA isn’t producing enough top-notch Test batsmen who can average 45-plus at Test level. I blame CA for not growing them in tubes. And also because they do T20. Also, why doesn’t CA have a production line of Mitchell Starc clones so they can simply pick one of them should Starc get injured? I also blame CA for that. They’ve failed in the above areas and that is the primary, indisputable reason Australia will likely lose this match.

    Of course, some people might say Australia were simply outplayed generally, with some careless batting of their own and some decisive performances from England’s senior players. But I say that’s too simple. The more expert and incisive explanation for this result is “because CA”. Anyone who suggests otherwise is a troll or doesn’t know anything about Australian cricket.

    • It’s getting a little old now, Tom. And yeah, maybe the ACB should be developing more proper test batsmen. Can’t rely on Smith all the time.

      • Also James – when you say “Australia have precious little else” besides Smith and the three quicks, presumably you’re filing Warner and Lyon under that utterly dismissive umbrella.

        Warner, who has reached 6000 Tests runs quicker than Cook, Hussey, Jayawardene, Kallis and De Villiers, while averaging 48. He’s got 21 centuries from 70 Tests. The likes of Gooch, Barrington, Gower, Vaughan and Hutton all played more Tests for fewer centuries than that. As did Greenidge and Haynes, for that matter.

        And Lyon, who’s the leading wicket-taker in the world this year. In 2017, he’s basically been statistically on par with Swann’s best year (2010).

        But yeah, precious little else.

        Even at 3-0 down, you’re unwilling to give due credit to the Australians.

        • You should know that I’ve long admired Lyon. And Warner is a terrific cricketer too. I was generalising. Unlike you to get so wound up! But I stand by my remarks that Bancroft, Khawaja, Handscomb, M Marsh and Bird are all very unremarkable and average cricketers. That’s basically half the side. There’s no doubt that Australian cricket has problems too – which is why both these teams in the Ashes are halfway down the world rankings (not just England).

          In days gone by you’d send brilliant batsmen to country cricket who seemed miles away from the test team. Guys like Stuart Law and Michael DiVenuto were high class players who would have walked into any other test team in the world. But Australia didn’t need them because you already had 6 amazing players in the team. These days it’s a different story. The guys arriving in country cricket for experience are generally subpar and impress few.

          Generally speaking, I believe Australia have won the Ashes because they’ve got Smith plus a world class pace attack. Lyon also plays a very important role but the main thing is the pace bowling that blows away the tail. England haven’t been able to cope because we’re just not very good, and the strength of our first class game is lacking depth too.

          • Wound up? I’m merely noting your offhand dismissal (“precious little else”) of Lyon and Warner, who could uncontroversially be considered world-class players.

    • Not sure what this is about. Australia have won the series and as always, despite what they say, took their foot of the gas. I can think of at least 3 other occasions in the past where we suddenly woke up once the Ashes were lost. I doubt if they would have played that way if it was2/1.
      Anyway agree a great innings from Cook, despite being dropped twice. A good innings is a good innings whatever the match situation. As Elaine says above, the downside is that now the powers that be will say everything is great in the camp and nothing needs to be done.

      • Agreed about the authorities. Personally though, I think Australia would have been desperate to secure another whitewash.

        • No. England have only one serious contender to come in as opener, Haseeb Hameed. All the others who are regularly touted are good bats, but have all the flaws of T20 players and are likely to be quickly found out by test bowling. A more interesting proposition might be to bring in Hameed and let Cook bat at 3 in place of Vince, as a means of extending his career. I have no doubt some will complain that it would be negative to have two slow players in the top 3 – but that is only a concern which has arisen since the advent of T20, and test batting should not be confused with baseball. At 3 Cook would be less exposed to the odd waft at the moving ball, something more frequent in the last 2-3 years.

          • Geoff Boycott is fond of saying that England’s success down under in 70/71 was partly down to playing a third opener at no. 3, to mitigate the potential effect of losing an early wicket. As much as anything he was talking about the ability and patience to see off the new ball, but that seems to be disappearing in the T20 era.

            As for Malan being the only other player able to play a “Cook-like” innings, I would possibly add Stoneman to that list. The only reason Malan is mentioned is because he’s done it once in Perth. If Stoneman can get one under his belt in the same way I think he has it in him to turn that into something.

            • Agreed. Against this Australian attack Stoneman has been epic at times.

              I’m sure he’ll get runs, just a matter of when.

      • And you kniw I should be rejoicing in this double century I really should. But my heary sank when I saw the score. That sounds a dreadful thing to say I know but this will now paper over the cracks. I am waiting for the knives to be out for Noe now. You wait and see, after all if St Alastair of Cook can get a double century why can’t you? The cabal of Cook, Anderson and Broad will remain as toxic as ever. If I ws Joe I would bugger off now and let them get on with it.

  • All those things you say we “could” point to, are the things I pointed to yesterday, when he was only on a hundred odd.

    As Elaine says, it’s a pity he couldn’t do it before the series was lost – but then all those “points” didn’t exist for him then.

  • To be fair to Cook I think most batsmen struggle against top class fast bowlers. The fact is that England don’t have any (though they have top class fast medium bowlers). Watch YouTube video of the West Indies fast bowlers of the 1980’s. All you say is true but barring a disastrous batting collapse (Not entirely out of the question) England can’t lose this test. And that is largely due to Cook. And Stuart Broad who has finally turned up, with bat and ball.

    • Indeed! I think the fact that Broad made a fifty shows just how slow this pitch is. Hopefully scoreboard pressure will do for Australia’s batsmen in the second innings.

      • Watching Broad I was torn. Great kudos to him for getting the runs. But his technique to short balls confirmed that his nerves remain shot when faced by them, even on a slow wicket.

  • Tom’s shtick might be repetitive but there’s some truth buried underneath. A bit of balance from both ‘sides’ wouldn’t go amiss around here to be honest.

    Super knock from Chef clearly and great to have something positive to cheer after a tough month, but the pudding pitch sans Starc is right in his wheelhouse; let’s see him start producing again when conditions and opposition are a little trickier before making any grand statements about the future or his “legendary” status.

    C’mon England, let’s get this one over the line and get some momentum going!

    • My friend, the truth isn’t even buried.

      Many people here blame the ECB for every setback, even those beyond their control – like senior players not performing. I’m merely following suit now that Australia are on the back foot. Why would that be objectionable?

      Is it because it feels like a backhanded way to diminish the performances of the team that won?

      Forget England’s improved performance at the MCG. This result is all about the missteps of Cricket Australia. Take that sentiment and triple it, add a pinch of class snobbery, and you have the response to Australia being 3-0 up. At least in these parts.

      • Cricket Australia made 3 changes to this side before the series started. They were absolutely castigated in the press, but the decision was absolutely the correct one. Conversely England are always safety first at great cost, think CA may be a bit more astute than England.

        • Well, it was only the selection of Shaun Marsh that was truly controversial – and I agree that has paid off. But to many, that also could have been cast as a “safety first” selection ie. selectors have no clue so they go back to a 34-year-old who’d been tried many times with yoyo results. But I grant you that it looks like an astute call in hindsight.

          Picking Paine to keep wicket was definitely a surprise – and yes, he’s been pretty good. But that spot was wide open and nobody had pressed their case with FC runs. So yes, surprising. It came out of left-field. But it’s not like they overlooked someone with an obvious claim.

          And thirdly, they replaced Renshaw with Bancroft at the top of the order. Has that worked out? Hard to say. But they weren’t really castigated for that one. Renshaw is 21 and showed great promise but hadn’t exactly made himself unexpendable. And his domestic form had been poor, while Bancroft had made a shitload of runs. So they went with the guy in form. Of the three changes, that was probably the most straightforward – and, admittedly, it’s probably been the least successful.

          And then they dropped Handscomb for Mitch Marsh after two Tests, which made a few people uneasy given Mitch Marsh hadn’t really done much to demand a recall. But he made 180 in Perth so in the short-term you’d have to say they got that right too.

          As for England, would you consider the selections of Stoneman, Vince and Malan for this tour to have been “safety first”? I see three guys with FC averages of 30-something, which suggests a little bit of a gamble. Malan has delivered, so that’s a tick. And I reckon Stoneman and Vince have both shown enough to warrant perseverance, although maybe Vince shouldn’t bat at #3.

          • Stoneman, Vince and Malan were in due to lack of alternatives. All the alternatives are white ball bats (except Hameed). Personally I would have not taken Vince (but taken Hameed) and would have thought about playing Foakes at 6 or 7 (with the gloves) for Vince with Root up to 3 (assuming Hameed was not there)…..but there are no easy answers.

              • True, but all our attempts to select bats based on white ball performance and technique have failed. The batsman who is equally good at both is a rarity.

      • I have no problem with Australia winning the Ashes. Never have never will. We played like drains and. The better team won. We win this Test and all the mistakes and errors and bad choices will be papered over. That is why we het so cross Tom. We are all prepared to agree that the better team won. Honest!

        • What were these mistakes and errors and bad choices? They picked three unproven batsmen who have generally pulled their weight. They had to pick Cook, Root, Ali, Broad and Anderson. Bairstow has been fine. And Overton/Curran have been decent when picked too. So what were they meant to do differently? Does all this recrimination about selection boil down to not picking Crane?

          To me, this determination to peg the result on “management” just seems like a self-serving way of diminishing Australia’s performance. As though it all would have been different had the ECB been more competent. I put it to you that the ECB could have done things differently, picked different players, whatever – and Australia still would have won comfortably.

          • I do not in any way wish to make Australia’s win look less in any way Tom. Honestly. I have explained before how I feel about the management tactics, not just in Test cricket but in all aspects of the game, which has been so bungling and hidebound. I will not repeat myself again, you will just have to take my word for it that I have nothing but praise for the Oz team. But I have a feeling you won’t

            • I’m not questioning you in particular. It’s about the general tenor of the reaction in these parts.

        • That is a concern..

          I expected a drubbing the moment Finn left the squad and wasn’t disappointed.

          If there’s any left after Perth the Broad supporters will be claiming he’s an allrounder again, that we were merely unlucky our lower order never contributed runs when faced with Starc and trot out the usual excuses.

          Dead rubbers don’t mean much.

          That we simply don’t have the bowling to take 20 wickets away from home is obvious and was frighteningly so in India.

          Is it Sri Lanka next year?

  • Well played Alastair Cook. I have been critical of him too when he gets in those runs of low scores and the commentators talk of his poor footwork and balance. Even with the Ashes lost, a big double hundred at the MCG is still a fine achievement and shows his great powers of concentration. Commentators were admiring the many straight drives he played. But I’d trade this big double in
    for two centuries and a 50 odd in the first three games. The fact is, without Starc, and on a slow pitch, it has been easier. It’s a fine innings, but too little too late. Well done too Broad, he did well to weather the storm of bouncers, take a few risks and put on 100 runs with Cook.
    Australia would love the 5-0 whitewash, but it’s inevitable that they have relaxed a bit with the Urn already secured. The match could peter out into a draw now, should England somehow contrive to lose it from here, then they are even worse than I thought they were.
    At Perth, the rain came back just an hour after Cummins took Woakes’ wicket to seal the Ashes win. Were none of the England batsmen thinking, let’s just dig in here and the rain might save us. It was such a tame surrender, the third time of late that England have lost a match even when making 400 first innings. Opportunities slipped away at Brisbane and Adelaide too, Root made some odd decisions at times. At times there has just been no fight, no common sense. So Australia have deservedly won
    because of…
    1. Pace attack, all three quick bowlers fit and firing at the same time.
    2. Steve Smith, ably assisted at times by S Marsh, M Marsh, Warner, Paine and Cummins
    3. England’s lack of pace.
    4. Lyon bowling very well, unlike Moeen
    5. Poor series contributions from Cook (until now), Root, Moeen, Broad and Woakes.

    TMS was doing a feature about the 1977 Centenary Test Match. Mention was made of Bob Willis shaking Rod Marsh’s hand
    after Marsh had got his 100, Marsh calling Randall back to the crease because he didn’t think he had taken a catch cleanly.
    Good sportsmanship. Often sadly lacking today, I’m afraid. I cannot stand all the UFC-style trash talking, the sledging, the abuse
    hurled at Broad just for not walking (something many Aussie batsmen have done over the years, as well as English ones), the remarks directed at Bairstow which were perhaps alluding to his father’s tragic death, the nastiness of the media etc. How I prefer the way Brendan McCullum liked to play the game when he was captain of NZ. I wish all Test matches were played in that spirit.

    • To be fair to Australians, probably the best example of playing in the spirit of the game in recent years was Adam Gilchrist.

  • This. Been saying it for years.

    (If you want to rehash really old gripes of mine, Root should never have gone down the order but stuck at out as an opener. Water and bridges comes to mind…)

    • Are you mad ?? Root isn’t technically competent enough vs the new ball.. you’ve seen his very regular ability to nick off right ???

      This type of talk is just trash… a bit like the ‘moeen can open/bat 3/top 6’ or when we (englsnd) apparently have 6/7 ‘world class’ players

  • Puzzled as to why Vince and Malan didn’t review their lbws, and why Cook didn’t help them out from the non-strikers end? Could it be that as newcomers to the side, they didn’t dare “waste” a DRS ? The pundits reckon the Malan one should never have been given out by the on-field umpire. These two have had their moments in this series and you’d like to think they would be confident enough to review. Can’t believe that they didn’t know they’d edged the ball into their pads.

    • I agree it is puzzling since you can almost always tell when you get the edge. But I do not blame Cook. The great thing about Cook is his concentration, almost Boycottesque. And when he is in the zone, as he was for this innings, I suspect his focus -even when the non-striker – is not on his partner.

  • Cook’s game has always been based upon being very strong against the short ball. Typically for a bottom hand players he’s strong square of the wicket. Hence interesting to see him driving straight, and very well too. Whilst still outstanding I do feel that he struggles against genuine pace. Who doesn’t.

    If you look at the top of the list of the top run scorers in test cricket he’s the only opener and the only one who averages less than 50. No criticism of him here, it’s tough opening the innings.

    One thing we’ve never been short of is opening batsmen. Conditions require a strong technique in England and I suspect some of our passed over openers over the years could have walked into many test sides around the world.

    There’s still mountains of runs left in Cook, for all the beauty of Root’s batting its still Cook who is our gun batsman. So yeah I’d take one of the young gun openers and give our best bat more of a chance after the shine has come off a bit.

    Interesting to reflect on the selection decision before the match. Root said he felt that Curran helped with the balance of the side. I like the look of him, he’s enthusiastic and skillful. Though I doubt anyone would be complaining if he had an extra yard or two of pace.

    So with runs on the board, 4 of them from Curran, and Ali being treated with disdain wouldn’t you rather see a wrist spinner at one end to winkle them out? We might yet see Malan on but he isn’t a specialist.

    What balance is Root talking about here? Crane looks like a live wire in the field, maybe a bit too enthusiastic at times. Not that Curran isn’t. So it’s the batting? Really? I might take the mick out of england’s fruitless search for useful lower order runs in Oz but was Curran picked ahead of Crane due to a first class batting average of 17 rather than 12?

    Bit sad to see some of the criticism of Ali. Yes his bowling is crap in Australia but we already knew that. Seeing him come in at 7 with his tap dancing shoes on was exactly what I wanted from him. It didn’t come off, no worries, though another half an hour of that would have been utterly marvellous. If you’re a bit out of nick then it isn’t a bad idea and I think he changed the momentum and intent of the innings.

    • Ali is averaging 19 with the bat and 100+ with the ball this series but you’re “sad” to see him criticised?

      And people wonder why I keep reiterating that England’s senior players have been given a pass for their below-par performances. Ali has been a complete non-factor for three-and-a-half Tests but you’re “sad” that he’s been criticised. You’re in fantasy land, champ.

      • You as ever are in whinge land. Reiterating is not a simile for bleat, whine or moan. Be proud of who you are little dude!

        I’m quite clearly praising the intent in his innings. Three thumbs up from me, even if it didn’t come off.

        • What do you think I’m whinging about? Rather, I’m mocking you for being “sad” that a senior player who has been awful might be justifiably criticised. #SadForAli :(

        • Also, I don’t think you know what a simile is.

          Maybe you meant synonym? Bit even then it doesn’t make sense.

          • Just how good a whingeing pod are you I wonder?

            Try having a swing at the following..

            The sky is blue.

            • Mike Chaffin was as sad as a thousand sighs that people had criticised Moeen Ali instead of blaming the ECB.

              Spot the simile. :(

        • Nah tbf this time Tom has a point. Ali has been over rated by our media and ‘fans’ for too long. He has never been and never will be a test class bowler.. he is not and will never be a test class batsmen.

          His innings wasn’t encouraging or momentum changing st All.. it was simply a ‘i can’t defend to save my life so I’ll just attack and hope it comes off’ .. saldy, we and the rest of the world have far too many ‘test’ players who consider white ball style innings to be test quality batting ..

    • Cook will score runs when he’s not faced with pace or a troubling wicket, we’ve always know that about him.. he’s the master at cashing in when it’s easy.. this game was stupidly easy which is why I saldy believe it’s simply papered over the cracks and everyone’s suddenly back in cooks corner.

      Root Keeps getting praised by England as world class.. wrong again.. a world class batsmen doesn’t keep getting out the way he does or keep getting out in the 50/50’s.. you wouldn’t expect genuine world class players to be like that.

      Broad and Anderson love flat tracks as they are accurate and can reverse it, Aussie bowlers with a ill cummings and a Missing Starc essentially have an English attack… suddenly their own weaknesses are laid bare which people (both Aussie and world) seem to ignore/deny.

      The reality is that the world game is in poor health and these two teams are very flawed..

      Yet again, no one will admit it and worse still,, no one cares about improving it

  • There is a lot of time spent by everyone on this blog bemoaning the lack of ‘proper cricketers’ , yet the one proven test class batsmen we have is still seemingly under appreciated. Yes, he’s not pretty to watch and has, like pretty much every batsman in history, technical flaws against certain types of bowling and conditions. There is still a chorus of ‘yes but’ surrounding his effort in this match: no Stark, an Ill Cummings, a slow unresponsive pitch, the series being lost, even blaming him indirectly for papering over the ECB cracks; yet no other batsman made a significant contribution.
    Let’s celebrate this once in a generation Player, still as important to England as Boycott, Gooch, Atherton and Strauss were in their time. Let’s show some faith and back him when things aren’t going his way, rather than getting on his back. Anyone who thinks he’s ever needed dropping with the present resources at our disposal is out of their minds.
    Far more worrying is the continued self destruction of the potentially great Root. Getting out when set is a greater sin in test cricket than a duck. He plays too many shots and clearly needs to concentrate on reigning himself in. What better example than Cook to tap into. Root is clearly more proficient technically, but mentally is well behind the 8 ball.


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