It is bound to happen – in cricket teams, as in offices and on what used to be factory floors – that some colleagues rub along better than others. Presumably, it happens in city trading rooms, if anybody gets on with anybody there, before going for the jugular.
Jimmy Anderson and Alastair Cook are mates in a team where everybody is getting along really, really well, thank you. They occasionally play darts together and there is no clearer sign of friendship than that.
Maybe it is important to consider this when reflecting on Anderson's comments after the close of play on the second day of the second Test. Jimmy's mate Alastair had scored another half-century to add to the bundle of runs he had already compiled in this Test series, whereas the side's highest-profile and biggest personality batsman, Kevin Pietersen, had caused his own downfall with a usual but unwarranted dramatic flourish.
Whether it was friendship, or being aghast at Kevin's latest mode of dismissal – taking on a short ball three overs from the end of the day with all the intent of a Saturday night street fighter – or simple overstatement, Anderson said: "He's got 600, 650 runs in the series – so it's pretty obvious he's talented," Anderson said of Cook. "He's probably more talented than KP.
"KP is so naturally gifted with the shots he's got – and Cookie's not got that. He relies on the shots that he has got, and his mental toughness to get him through. He's shown how talented he is this trip. He's been fantastic."
What Anderson was really saying was what Andy Flower, England's coach, has been demonstrating though his assessments. It takes all sorts to make a cricket team and what Cook has offered at No 2 in this series has been more valuable, as it has turned out, than what Pietersen has provided at No 4.
Day in, day out since Brisbane in late November, Cook has gone and walked the hard yards, not always with aplomb but invariably with unflustered concentration. Pietersen, apart from his supreme innings in Adelaide, has flattered to deceive on many occasions, as he did again yesterday.
"Considering people were questioning his spot during the summer, I think he's shown exactly what a player he is," said Anderson. "He's got huge character, huge talent – and there were no doubts in our dressing room that he was going to perform when he came out here."
What Cook has is the ability to play at all times within his limitations, which can take him to the stars. Pietersen, on the other hand, does not believe he has limitations, which is what makes him a star.
Anderson, like his darts-playing chum, has quietly overachieved on this tour. It was said, rather like Cook would always get out snicking balls outside off stump, that the Kookaburra ball would make a mug out of Anderson because he would not able to swing it.
Instead of which, Cook plundered his way down the eastern seaboard. As for the Kookaburra, named after the laughing bird, Anderson might not have made it laugh, but it has certainly talked at times. "I knew what had been said before I came away, but it didn't bother me," he said. "I knew where my game was at and the ability I've got, and I'm happy that I've made such meaningful contributions towards the successful tour so far."
He took four wickets on the second morning as England threatened to run through Australia, only to be delayed by a ninth-wicket partnership of 76 between Mitchell Johnson, who made a bravura 52, and Ben Hilfenhaus, who merely chanced his arm, much, in both cases, to the tourists' irritation.
"It is frustrating when that happens but it does happen quite often in Test cricket, the tail wagging," said Anderson. "It can be difficult, because certainly Johnson and Hilfenhaus had a licence and free rein to swing the bat. Sometimes it comes off – and it did for Hilfenhaus, who had his eyes shut for the majority of his innings.
"But if you'd given us 280 when they chose to bat on that pitch we'd have taken it, so we were pretty happy with our couple of days' work as bowlers." And so they should have been.Reuse content