Cook's scorching form helps to melt away the critics

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The Independent Online

One minute, he is not up to the job, the next he is being compared to the best one-day opening batsman to have played for England. Such is the dramatic impression that Alastair Cook has made and, perhaps, so desperate is the modern need for superlatives.

But his opening partner, Craig Kieswetter, who performs a similar function with Trescothick at Somerset, was unequivocal yesterday. The question was leading but so was the answer. It was the sort that only a week ago would have begged theories about the motives of the inquisitor. Does Cook remind you of Trescothick?

"Yes, he certainly hit the ball as hard as he does, and he's just as calm in the middle," said Kieswetter. "It made me pretty well at home because it felt like I was playing at Taunton for a while."

The cause of the commotion was Cook's dynamic innings against Sri Lanka at Trent Bridge on Wednesday night when he scored an unbeaten 95 from 75 balls, a strike rate of 127 (runs per 100 balls, that is), which bears comparison with Trescothick or anybody else, and allowed England to win by ten wickets with 24 overs in hand. Cook has never struck the ball with such ferocity or timing, the significant point being that he did it defying critics who supposed he did not have the game.

Cook had scored his hundred at Leeds three days earlier at a rate of 83, his 48 in the innings before that came at 92. He had served notice in Bangladesh last year where he had gone along at 94, 98 and 74. Perhaps the perception of him as plodder is such he will have to rattle along faster than others.

Kieswsetter, while observing that Cook had proved the critics wrong "hugely", knew the score. "He is hitting the ball cleaner than I have ever seen and like he said after that innings he is performing exceptionally well. But he understands he needs to put a long run in to get rid of the critics. It is not about proving critics wrong. It is about trying to help England win games of cricket." Win the games, of course, and the critics melt away like ice in the sun.

It was only England's fourth ODI victory by ten wickets and their first since 2008, which was also at Trent Bridge against South Africa, who were still celebrating their Test series triumph and hardly noticed they had been bowled out for 83. Kieswetter and Strauss could yet develop an understanding. "Things normally take a while to build up but we seem to be quite nicely getting on," said Kieswetter. "Cooky has helped me get going a few times and I have done the same to him. It is good to understand how the other one works in the middle."

They talked briefly of whether Cook should be allowed to get his hundred. "It would be unfair for me not to ask," he said. "I was more than happy to hit singles and give it to him. I was not surprised but proud of his response and he said finish the game off.

"He said we are playing for England and personal milestones should never get in way of that."

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