Cook ready to make most of surprise opening

One Friday night last summer, Alastair Cook stayed up late to receive an award in London as the Cricket Writers' young player of the year. The next day, having reached the Essex village of Wickham Bishops in the small hours, he scored 214 from 238 balls against the Australians.

If he can survive and prosper in those circumstances - first running the gauntlet of a massed bunch of reporters and then having insufficient sleep before facing a bowling attack desperate to make a point five days before the Test that would decide the Ashes - a little matter of residual jet lag after flying from one side of the world to the other to face two of the best spinners on the planet is definitely surmountable.

Cook, summoned to Nagpur from an England A Test in Antigua, will become the 26th youngest player to represent England. At 21 years and 66 days (he shares a Christmas Day birthday with Marcus Trescothick, the man he replaces in the team) Cook will be five days older than David Gower was against Pakistan in 1978. If he can hit his first ball for four and go on to make 58 (not to mention another 8,173 runs in Test cricket), England will be satisfied.

Playing for England has always been a case of when not if for the left-handed Cook, and if some judges think the when has come too soon, they were perhaps being protective. The most pertinent note of caution was sounded yesterday by Graham Gooch, the former England batsman who is now the Essex batting coach. "He is not the finished article, he's only 21 and he's still got a lot to learn, but he's a quick learner and he's got a great attitude," said Gooch. "His rise has been quite rapid and I'm confident he'll be able to handle the conditions out there."

Gooch was 21 (and 352 days) when he won his first Test cap, which turned out to be too young because he bagged a pair against Australia. He then spent three years in county rehabilitation before eventually re-emerging as one of the best of all England's batsmen.

Perhaps then it is not ideal for Cook to be playing now and the circumstances - with members of the original squad falling over quicker than members of England's rugby team being tackled by Scotsmen - could hardly be less auspicious. But he handles himself placidly and maturely.

"If you are playing for England and making your Test debut you will be up for anything," he said. "It has been a bit of a trek and I'm a bit jet-lagged from all the travel but once the day comes I'll be fine."

Cook first played for Essex in 2003 and last summer scored five first-class centuries. But it was the sixth hundred which turned heads and raised eyebrows. It did not count as first class in strictly statistical terms because Essex's match against the Australians was over two days. But it met the requirements of every other sense of the phrase.

He played some coruscating, beautifully economical shots all round the wicket. Off his legs he was impeccable. The Australians could not contain him and the general consensus that he is not yet proficient against spin was barely tested by the tourists' reserve leg spinner Stuart MacGill who took 0 for 128. Australia recognised a star in the making.

Cook broke all records at Bedford School, but his scholarship there was for music not cricket (he plays piano and saxophone).

Tony Greig, the former England captain who presented him with this young cricketer award, brought the house down by saying: "Forget the music and get on with the batting." If Cook gets on with the batting in Nagpur, it might be worthwhile belting out a tune or two.

l England's injury troubles in India have provided Ravinder Bopara, Stuart Broad and Luke Wright with call-ups to the A squad in the West Indies. Injuries and unavailability concerning the likes of the England captain, Michael Vaughan, and his deputy, Marcus Trescothick, on the subcontinent have forced the selectors to summon Alastair Cook, James Anderson and Owais Shah from the Caribbean. The beneficiaries have been Cook's fellow Essex youngster Bopara, the Leicestershire bowling all-rounder Broad - son of former England opener Chris - and Sussex all-rounder Wright.

Indian signs Where the first Test will be won and lost


England need to score more than 400 in their first innings if they are to have any chance of avoiding defeat in this opening encounter. If they lose the toss, the bowlers cannot feel sorry for themselves and allow the inevitable happen. If India manage to score 500, it will become very difficult for England to remain competitive no matter how well the pitch may be playing.


Nasser Hussain's defensive tactics in 2001 were unpopular but they worked. Hussain had an inexperienced bowling attack that kept India's star-studded batting line-up under control. Passionate crowds place India's batsmen under pressure. They want their stars to entertain them, and if England can prevent them finding the boundary, they may just succumb.

Condition check


Clear blue skies and a hot sun will ensure every last bit of moisture is sucked out of the pitch before the start of play. There is hardly a blade of grass on it and pacemen will struggle to get the ball above chest height. It will turn, but how soon? England need it to hold together for at least three days.


There will be little change in the weather during the first Test in Nagpur, where it will be very hot and dry. Temperatures will reach 34C tomorrow and up to 33C on Thursday, Friday and over the weekend. Increasing levels of humidity may help the ball to swing in the later stages of the match.

The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Text messaging changes as a relationship evolves
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Real Madrid
peoplePerformer had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer
Life and Style
food + drink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?