Cook: 'I've felt the pressure – but to respond like I did was satisfying'

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The Independent Online

Alastair Cook was almost bound to be upbeat after a summer-changing century.

But he clearly believes England can seal the series against Pakistan today, and put the icing on his personal cake, by winning the third Test.

"We know that when Pakistan are on top they are a very good side," said Cook. "But if we can eke out a few more runs and then apply some pressure by getting a couple of early wickets then that really changes the momentum. Suddenly 150 or 160 more runs looks a long way away.

"Our bowlers have bowled fantastically all series and it is hard to get over the line to win a Test."

England will take heart from the fact that Pakistan lost seven wickets in scoring the 180 runs they needed to beat Australia at Headingley earlier this summer. Conversely, of course, the tourists can draw comfort from having successfully chased a small fourth-innings target when under pressure.

Whatever happens today, though, Cook is likely to remember this Test with a great deal of fondness. And, as he revealed last night, the century that ended all debate about his immediate future was not only compiled under mounting pressure from outside the England camp but also after being sacked by his "batting buddy" Jimmy Anderson.

Cook has been helping his big mate Anderson in the finer arts of strokeplay for a couple of years or more. But with both opener and tail-ender struggling for runs this summer, Anderson decided that a change of partners might benefit both of them.

"It was Jimmy's idea on Thursday," said Cook. "He sacked me – it was a real hammer blow! Jimmy went a long time without a nought in Test cricket and then he had a few in a row, so he came to me and said it was time we went our separate ways!"

The split clearly worked, with nightwatchman Anderson making 11 and Cook hitting 110. "Like when a team has a new manager in football, you always do well straight away," said the century-maker before swiftly pointing out that his new buddy, Graeme Swann, had not helped him to warm up for yesterday's vital innings.

At least Cook can afford to joke and laugh about cricket again. Too many times this summer the Essex left-hander has looked down in the dumps following another failure.

"I've been feeling under pressure – but that's natural when you don't score any runs at the top of the order," he said. "To respond like I did is very satisfying.

"I tried to be more positive. I went out there trying to hit the ball and to score runs and not to worry so much about my feet and my backlift. I didn't want to die wondering and it paid off.

"It doesn't mean that I'm out of the woods or in the best form ever. You have to keep working hard and I will do that."

The national selector Geoff Miller, coach Andy Flower, captain Andrew Strauss and every other England player asked for an opinion has backed Cook to come good. And yesterday he did just that.

"They have all been excellent with me," said the opener. "They know I've been going through a tough run but they've backed me all the way, and I can only thank them for that. Hopefully, I've repaid them."

Cook, almost inevitably, needed a bit of good fortune along the way. He edged a couple of boundaries early on and then, when in the twenties, he snicked a clear chance between first and second slip.

"Only one was a catching chance," Cook reminded everyone. "But when you are in a bit of a bad run of scores you find ways to get out. Yes, you do need a bit of luck as a batsman. And as an opener you have to keep believing it will change. It did change for me here, and luckily I cashed in."

Cook made an ear-cupping gesture on reaching three figures but declined to reveal who that was aimed at. What he was prepared to share with the world, though, was the depth of his satisfaction. "To score a hundred under that pressure means a lot to me," he said.

Now England must hope that Cook's new batting mate, Swann, is sufficiently recovered from the cough and cold that have bothered him this week to produce another match-winning bowling performance today.