Cook’s Moment

The time for talking is over. The battle is about to commence. Tomorrow morning the phoney war ends and the real shooting begins. It’s England versus Australia at Cardiff. And the hyperbole and sporting clichés will continue apace. Sorry about that!

The key man, in this observer’s opinion, is Alastair Cook. We all know Cook’s prowess at making mediocre attacks pay, but the Ashes is a step up in class. Aside from 2010/11, when Australia were in disarray and Cook cashed in big time, the skipper’s Ashes record is disappointing. Indeed, he has the second worst record of any regular England opener in home Ashes series since 1900. England have no chance unless Cook gets this particular monkey off his back.

The good news for Alastair is that Ryan Harris has retired. Harris was brilliant at pushing the ball across Cook with relentless accuracy – thus exploiting his flaws against pitched up bowling. Harris’s absence will give England a huge lift. Johnson and Starc are a fearsome combination, but pace has never particularly worried England’s captain. He’s tough enough, and phlegmatic enough, to cope.

With Adam Lyth unproven, and Gary Ballance and Ian Bell in poor form, England need Cook and Joe Root to have big series. The latter is one of the best young players in the world and England’s captain of the future. The Aussies will target Root, knowing that his form is crucial. Root has rescued England’s erratic test team on many occasions. If he’s dismissed early, England’s explosive middle-order of Stokes and Buttler won’t have the platform they crave.

Australia’s batting has weaknesses, but these aren’t as pronounced as England’s. Steve Smith will find it tough batting at three against Jimmy Anderson, but he’s in far better form that his opposite number.

Michael Clarke’s back is also a concern, but his fitness hasn’t affected his ability to go big in past Ashes series. After being dismissed cheaply in the first innings at Brisbane to a short ball, many pundits thought Clarke was a sitting duck. They were wrong. The Aussie’s talisman scored a second innings hundred and went on to have a productive series. Personally, I’m confident that Clarke will be a thorn in our side once again.

The two bowling attacks actually look quite similar on paper. Both boast aggressive five-man attacks with four seamers and an off-spinner. Johnson and Starc will swear and snarl, but so will Broad and Stokes. The key difference, however, is that the Aussie left-armers have that extra yard of pace – and we all know the difference between 86mph and 90-95 mph is vast at test level. Many of England’s batsmen won’t have faced bowling this rapid before.

If England do manage to win the Ashes, I suspect it will be because we enjoyed better bowling conditions. Unfortunately, we still need a little help from the skies and the pitch to take twenty wickets. The Aussies, on the other hand, are capable of running through teams in any conditions. We’ll just need to hope that fortune is on our side.

Although Australia start as firm favourites, England do have a sniff. As our regular readers will know, I’m a firm believer that the bookies know what they’re talking about. Most of them are offering 16-5 on England. That means we basically have a one in three chance of success. You know what? I’ll take those odds after two turbulent years.

Finally, I’d like to return to Alastair Cook once more. With rumours circulating that he’s had enough of the captaincy – and who can blame him – I personally think this series could define his legacy.

If Cook fails against Australia’s fearsome attack, the penny will finally drop that he struggles against the very best. If he succeeds, however, he’ll finally deserve the adulation he’s received since emerging as a young player for England U19s all those years ago.

Can the Essex farm boy do it? With Harris missing, I sense the Ashes will have a happy ending for Cook the batsman. Whether they have a happy ending for Cook the captain, however, is another matter.

James Morgan



  • I very much hope that this Ashes doesn’t have a happy ending for Cook the batsman.

    I say that not just because I barrack for the Australians but also because it will legitimise the whining, puling wretches giant sulk and pampered, protected species status that he has enjoyed for the last two years.

    I hope he’s dismissed for small or no scores so he can go and be oh so fucking terrific in the dressing room.

    • May I suggest you tone says rather more about you Ian than AC?

      He has played poorly at times but the record is not that bad. By my reckoning since the beginning of 2013 he has played 28 tests (a fair statement in itself). He has scored 1883 runs at 38.4. Not great but perhaps better than any partner? In a difficult period when he has disappointed a lot, he has still scored 50+ in 9 tests and 100+ in 7 more. He has averaged 58 since the beginning of the India series a year ago. Maybe the selectors think after 9000 runs and 27 hundreds he was worth sticking with through this couple of years?

      If we looked at Kevin Pietersen’s last 2 years it is quite instructive. Many feel that on cricketing grounds he should still be playing. In those 2 years he played 26 matches. He scored 1697 runs at 36.1. I’m first to admit figures don’t tell all but they have a relevance. Overall Cook has probably been worth his place as a batsman I suggest.

        • Thank you. BTW I do agree with your thoughts on catching below. I posted on another thread about this earlier. I was at an event last week at which Anderson spoke with some feeling on the subject when asked about it.

            • I was agreeing with you Mark – we posted at exactly the same time so I hadn’t seen your message. There’s an indent at least which shows to whom a reply is to, although it can be unclear when there are lots of replies.

              Minor frustration of mine that a lot of the criticism of Cook seems to revolve around his batting record, which all things considered stands up remarkably well. He had a poor patch about 12-24 months ago I recall but since then he averages well.

      • Good points Mark. I don’t think it’s fair to make judgements on the last 2 years of Pietersen’s career though. He was clearly playing injured, with his chronic injury, which took a long time to settle down after the operation he so desperately needed (but couldn’t have while playing for England). Other cricketers just went home. Pietersen stuck it out.

    • A bit mean Ian, personally as an Aussie supporter I hope Cook does just well enough to stay in the team (a couple of fifties in the first 2-3 tests) and be retained as Captain throughout the series where he can do the most damage to England.

      Anyway I can’t believe the above summation completely fails to mention Hazlewood. Yes he’s green but if he does half as well as he did in the West indies (a side recently shown to be roughly the same standard as England), he’ll still average below 20. Over the two series he’s played in he’s had clearly the best bowling average on both sides. Third most economical bowler in the world Cup (of those who bowled in more than 2 innings). Did I mention his test batting average is 47.5?

      Anyway that’s my rev up. Its down to the pub this evening for beers and dinner to watch the first session or two with some mates.

      • I see where you are coming from Steve and i hope you enjoyed the pub.

        However while I will normally support any cricketer going through a run of poor form I can’t support someone with the massive sense of entitlement that Cook has and who seems to have blighted several promising careers by putting himself first. Despite claiming to have the well being of the team and the game at heart.

      • Hi Steve. We talked about Hazlewood on another thread. I predicted he’d be the leading wicket taker in the series.

  • 2 aspects of England’s bowling a cause for concern.

    1st, how do they take wickets when the ball is 25/30 overs old. Anderson is a threat with a new ball, but when the ball is 25+ overs old, you need pace through the air, reverse swing or spin. There’s no real reverse swing exponent, and there is a massive question mark over whichever spinner is chosen. Wood has got pace – I’d love England to give him a go with the new ball and move Broad to 1st change.

    2nd, there are going to be points in the series where Warner / Smith / Haddin go after the bowling and there’s nobody there that brings confidence that they might be able to keep things in check. In the past there was containing spin of Giles / Swann, and seamers like Flintoff / Bresnan who could perform a containing role as much as take wickets. I know everybody likes to be attacking, but there is the old truism that maidens bring wickets. For years, the strength of Warne and McGrath was as much about drying runs up as much as delivering magic balls. Stokes is erratic, Wood is raw, and both spinners deliver too many 4-balls. Does Broad need to re-invent himself as a top of off-stump bowler rather than the enforcer now that he is definitely on the medium side of fast-medium? Can’t see him having many more of those once or twice a series Broad hot spells now his pace is down.

    Performance with the old ball will go a long way to deciding England’s fate, even if Anderson has a magic series against Australia’s top order, who do have questions to answer against the new Duke. Haddin, Johnson and Starc at 7,8 and 9 can turn 150 for 5s into totals of 350 as they did 18 months ago.

    BTW, still gutted we’re having a 3rd Ashes series inside 2 years.

    • You make some very good points. The other issue I see for England is when the bowlers do provide the opportunity the catches have to be taken and recent form does not give a great deal of confidence.

      I would also be concerned with Buttler behind the stumps.

      For all that Haddin may not be setting the world on fire as a batsman I see his primary role as wicket keeper and he is an excellent glove an. I reckon Buttler is costing more runs than he makes.

      • It will be really interesting to see how Buttler goes. He’s an exciting talent but still rather unproven at the very top level. Haddin has made most of his test hundreds against England. I can see him raising his game.

  • “Most of them are offering 16-5 on England. That means we basically have a one in three chance of success.”

    Actually it means, in simple terms*, they think England’s chances are slightly less than one in four. Odds of x to y do not equate to a probability (or chance) of y/x, but in fact y/(x+y). In this case, 5/(16+5) or 5/21.

    Odds merely show a ratio between undesirable (x) and desirable (y) outcomes. Probability (or chance) is a measure of desirable outcomes (y) over all possible outcomes (x+y).

    Sorry, this is one of those things I can’t bear to see uncorrected.

    (*Obviously it’s actually more complicated in reality, because the bookmaker’s principal aim is to make a profit regardless of outcome, not to announce to the world exactly what he thinks England’s chances of winning are!)


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