All the ingredients are in place for Cook to rewrite the record books
Wednesday 08 June 2011
In time, and not that much of it the way things are going, Alastair Cook will break all England Test batting records. At the age of 26 years and 164 days he scored his 18th Test hundred yesterday. Shortly no doubt he will reach his prime.
His aggregate of Test runs is now 5,465 and nobody, neither Sachin Tendulkar, a previous era's precocious talent, nor Ricky Ponting, ditto, scored so many so early. Another five hundreds and Cook will have scored more than any other England batsman.
At his recent rate of progress he should achieve that by some time early in 2012. He has now made six hundreds in his past 12 innings, starting at The Oval last year, a sequence in which there have also been three scores above 50. His average in that span is a little above 100.
Andrew Strauss referred to Cook only once in his post-match comments but the context was the thing. Kevin Pietersen took a step on the way to a return to form by making a nifty 72 and Strauss said: "He grafted on Monday night, played some lovely shots this morning. We hope he can enter a purple patch now like Alastair Cook."
By any standards Cook's recent achievements have been remarkable, and considering they began with an innings that effectively salvaged his international career after a desperately barren run they begin to enter the realms of the miraculous.
That 110 at The Oval, a scratchy affair on a tricky pitch, confirmed to him that he still had what it took. Afterwards he took Australia to the cleaners in the Ashes and is merely continuing his serene progress this summer.
But for an atypical lunge across the line in his first innings here he would have had his second hundred of this series. As it is, he ensured that milestone yesterday with another unflustered little gem. On 84, he went 15 balls without scoring and in 27 balls before lunch he took only three singles.
Was he bovvered, as they might say in Essex, Cook's manor. No sir, he was not. Early in the afternoon his 10th four brought him the hundred. Only seven Englishmen have more Test hundreds, including the trio which has held the joint record for almost 30 years, Wally Hammond, Colin Cowdrey and Geoff Boycott, who joined the other two on 22 in December 1981.
Anything seems possible for Cook now. Should he wish to go on and on he will be both England's largest run scorer as well as century maker and promises now to have an average to match. His 202 runs at Lord's in the past week have taken his average to a shade below 50, the mark of greatness, not least when you play half the time on English pitches, which can be contrarier than most.
Cook is being groomed for the captaincy, and while the responsibility tends to affect all captains (as it is affecting Andrew Strauss now) he had immense powers of discipline and concentration instilled into him as a chorister at St Paul's Cathedral School. When he first tried it in Bangladesh last year, he scored hundreds in both Test matches.
If Strauss continues for a couple of years, Cook would be 28, perhaps the perfect age to take over. For the near future, because batting remains such an inexact art even on today's pitches, there will be a time when Cook begins to fail again. It is simply that he does not look like it at present, the pesky technical flaw that saw him regularly undermined by balls pitching where fourth or fifth stumps might be having been eradicated.
He has accumulated as much credit as he has runs in these past nine months and yesterday his stock rose a little more. There are other England batsmen – Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott – blazing their own spectacular trails and it really is something.
Cook's incredible run
6 & 110 v Pakistan The Oval, 18-22 Aug 2010
10 v Pakistan Lord's, 28 Aug-2 Sept
67 & 235* v Australia Brisbane, 25-29 Nov
148 v Australia Adelaide, 3-7 Dec 32 & 13 v Australia Perth, 16-20 Dec
82 v Australia Melbourne, 26-30 Dec
189 v Australia Sydney, 3-7 Jan 2011
133 v Sri Lanka Cardiff, 26-30 May
96 & 106 v Sri Lanka Lord's, 3-7 June
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