To the Kensington Oval, Bridgetown – where England hope to seal a two-nil series victory and avoid coming home with only a draw.
As I began to write this post, the visitors were 31-1, and Alastair Cook had been batting quite fluently. Will this finally be his day? He must score a century in this match. There are no ifs, buts, or caveats. Yes, he’s ratched up a string of reasonable scores during his last few innings, as his supporters never stop telling us. But such talk only reminds us of English cricket’s congenital lack of ambition and tolerance of mediocrity.
Cook’s job is to make major, match-winning scores on a regular basis. It’s been two years since he did that – with the possible exception of his 95 at the Rose Bowl last summer – and he ran out of excuses months ago. Only a century, and nothing less, will give Cook not only the authority and mandate to continue as captain, but the confidence to approach the New Zealand series with positive expectation. The Kiwi bowlers, on early season English pitches, will pose him all kinds of questions.
Jonathan Trott was dismissed third ball, and barring a significant second-innings score, this will be his last test – and the end of a strange, sad, three-match coda to a fine international career. He has been miscast in this series, and I feel sorry for him.
Now, you may have noticed that apart from a brief appearance when Paul Downton was sacked (oh, what joy it was to be alive that day), I have been virtually absent from this site for more than two months. For which, I must offer my profuse apologies, not only to you, but to poor old James, who’s had to write the whole blog on his own since the middle of February. What a fine job he’s done, and thanks both to him, and to all of you, for the thousands of comments and contributions which make The Full Toss what it is.
I’m now back in the room. But boy, did I pick a bad time to be away – missing the World Cup disaster and all manner of political shenanigans, some of which I may return to after this test, although please bear with me, as I’m still feeling rather out of the loop, and I have much to catch up on, for fear of repetition.
There was no very exotic reason for my disappearance – I was simply very, very busy with a long work project, which is now almost finished. I did, however, find time to run the London Marathon last Sunday, and several of you have already been incredibly generous and sponsored me. I ran in aid of Sands, the stillbirth and neo-natal death charity, and Cardiac Risk in the Young. If you’d like to sponsor me too – and I’ll be very touched – my fundraising page is still open, here.
Since beginning this post, Ballance and Bell have both perished to leave England wobbling slightly, at 47-3. This could be an interesting session. We invite all your comments and thoughts on today’s play, below – and many thanks.
This MUST be the end of Trott. I seriously wonder if they only picked him to make Cook look good by comparison…
Ballance got out to a peach from Holder, but his defence was sloppy. I put it down to inexperience. As long as he learns from it…
I seriously worry that Bell is going back to being the Sherminator of old we all knew and hated. No consistency anymore. Can’t trust him to do what’s needed from a Test no. 4.
We now need a 100 partnership from Cook and Root to put us back in the game. Against the WINDIES, for f*ck’s sake.
Looking at this England top order, how many of them would you trust to put in a big innings when the team needed it?
Why does England not produce great batsmen – guys who end their career with an average of 50 plus?
Joe Root, at the grand old age of 24, is effectively already one of England’s senior players. Doesn’t say much for the rest of them, does it?
I may be bordering on the sensational, but I can’t help thinking that a) Trott was George Dobell’s mystery man, reintegrated to keep him quiet and b) he was reintegrated to keep another experienced South African out of the team. Not to mention his being a cheerleader for Cook.
Given that Cook is one of the people who makes the decisions about selection, it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility, is it?
Dobell is of course compromised by his personal friendship with the Trott family. And he has been on the ECB’s case for a while now. Again, not impossible to imagine selections being made for political/public image/media reasons rather than cricketing reasons.
Let’s be clear: no batsman succeeds in every innings. But certain guys who have failed in more than 30% (let’s say) of the innings they’ve played over an extended period of time have been allowed to carry on, while other guys whose records are about the same have been sacked. This can only be down to nepotism.
Cook anchoring the innings… not a sentence I thought I was going to be writing, but good for him.
New ball will be very interesting, especially if WI can summon up some sustained pace.
I think we’d gotten so used to Cook failing that Cook succeeding seems completely surreal, rather than just being what we’d expect from an international top-order batsman.
Yawn – Cook bashing is as predictable as it is unbalanced. Yes he hasn’t set the world alight for a while but the man has 25 odd centuries and a solid average to boot. In most places that would command respect. Plus his form lately has actually been pretty good so even that tired attack loses all credibility.
If you’re hoping he’ll be an all time great then you will always be sorely disappointed. If you’re happy for him to prove himself a very good test batsman time after time (and for my money, someone who has improved as a captain considerably) then you’ll recognise the talent that he is.
I generally find the overt criticism of a sizeable minority says more about them than Cook himself.
that’s right, yes, given 36 innings to prove he can score a century whilst all others are dumped after a few – says more about England and Cook, for whom this test series has been a deliberate net practice at the team’s expense – I generally find the love affair with Cook sadly misplaced, outdated and perverse
Worst of all, the blinkered idolisation of Cook (and Trott) has come at the expense of the team’s performances. Test matches have been lost unnecessarily because of it.
The team is always more important than the man – unless it’s Cook, of course.
I agree Trott was a mistake but I can see the thinking behind it at least even if I would have chosen Lyth.
Cook’s record speaks for itself – talk of idolisation is hyperbole. The fact that he is captain has afforded him extra protection where others may have been dropped on poor form alone – in theory at least it’s better for there to be relative stability at captaincy level. His recent form has been good and I see him as very popular within the team. Poor form may have cost test matches but you could level that compliant any any player.
Put yourself in the selector’s shoes – who would you replace him with?
“If you’re hoping he’ll be an all time great then you will always be sorely disappointed.”
Believe me, we are.
And what other English player do you expect to attain this level?
Five comments from Anonymous and I’ve no idea if any of them are the same person but I think not. It’s kind of difficult to have a discussion.
I find people who go on about ‘Cook bashing’ and ‘Cook haters’ are missing the point. It’s not Cook himself that many England cricket supporters object to, it’s how he’s been treated over the lengthy period of time when he was really not playing well enough to warrant selection. Perhaps those days are over, he’s earning his place again anyway. Let’s see what happens.
“If you’re hoping he’ll be an all time great then you will always be sorely disappointed.” Perhaps you could explain that to the media and the ECB PR team?
I agree Zeph, it’s not Cook thee batsman that most have objected to – and I’m glad he’s got the monkey off his back with that ton. The problem I have, along with the preferential and blinkered treatment over the past 18 months, is the fact that he is still captain, when he plainly not a leader/tactician/ or able to be proactive.
“Let’s see what happens” is right.
Cook will have to score big runs against NZ, Aus, Pak and SA before anyone can honestly say that he’s earned his place again (HONESTLY being the key word). If he can, then fantastic, because that benefits the TEAM – and not because it benefits Cook!
but you’ve forgotten that here, Cook was only out because he was tired having carried the weight of the whole nation on his shoulders for so long now – out caught behind to the last ball of the day – but hey, never mind, didn’t he do well ….
whereas if it had been somebody else, KP for example, it would have been reckless play by a senior player who should know better and should have been in a position to further lead England to triumph the next morning ……
““If you’re hoping he’ll be an all time great then you will always be sorely disappointed.” Perhaps you could explain that to the media and the ECB PR team?”
Not totally sure I catch your drift – is your point that he’s being picked because the media / ECB see him as such? If so I don’t see it that way at all. More pertinent in my mind is we have very very few players who could even hope of attaining that level. Reading some of the comments here I think many would get rid of Cook, pin the captaincy and opening bat on someone else (Root? – surely way to early) and watch his career suffer and the inevitable backlash because of it. Can no one else see a pattern here?
Apologies if I’ve misconstrued anything.
My point was that he’s being presented by the ECB PR and the media as an all time great.
Ha! having complained about all the Anonymouses I’ve now done it myself.
This is spot on. Unfortunately the sizeable minority write the blogs on this website.
When people take the trouble to set up and write a personal blog, regularly and without payment, they’re entitled to write their own opinions as often as they like. There are many other cricket blogs that take a different view.
Absolutely correct and that’s why I much prefer reading the other blogs.
Well, you could exercise your right not to read the blogs or comments!!!
The MSM reaction to Cook’s century has predictably failed to distinguish between Cook the batsman and Cook the captain. Yet again the two are treated as if they are indivisible.
Taking Cook the batsman first, he is genuinely looking better as he was in Grenada. He looks more solid defensively to the pitch-up ball on off-stump. However this is still a modest attack (not one bowler averages 35 in Tests) and they didn’t bowl in the right place long enough early in the innings (Taylor was too wide and Gabriel too short). There was also precious little swing at any stage (except the ball that bowled Ballance). Cook has stopped getting out to good length bowling on off-stump but he still can’t score off it. His wagon wheel shows he hardly scored a run off the seamers in front of square on the off-side. He may be ‘back’ but he may not. We’ll see how he goes against better attacks. Strauss scored two centuries off the West Indies in 2012 (breaking a 25 innings ton-less run) but they meant very little when he was up subsequently against the Saffers.
On Cook as captain, the MSM media have written plenty about Trott and I can’t see one writer who identifies Cook’s role in selection. It takes something to make me sympathetic to James Whitaker but he is not at fault here. The selectors picked Trott in the tour party. If Trott had been used as experienced cover for Bell or Ballance then fair enough. It wasn’t their decision to select Trott in the starting XI and bat him out of position. That was decided by the coach and the captain. It isn’t hindsight to question it – plenty did so at the time (not on grounds of Trott’s health obviously, on grounds of his decline since 2012). Cook has previous on distrusting new players and trying endlessly recreate (minus one) the team of 2011 (the handling of Prior last summer most obviously).
So, while Cook the batsman made some progress yesterday the same can’t be said for Cook the captain
Really good points here – only things I would say is that whilst there’s a very relevant distinction, it is probably worth bearing in mind that they necessarily come together (i.e. realistically Cook would probably only play in the team as a captain – when one ends so will the other in my opinion).
Agree he got the selection wrong on this one but I think his on-field captaincy has been good of late. My take.