It is usually impossible to grade a batsman's innings. They come in all shapes and sizes in shifting circumstances. They can win matches, they can be played to draw them, which can be every bit as important. But when Graham Gooch starts classifying it is sensible to listen and of the England captain Alastair Cook's exemplary century yesterday he had a definite opinion.
"I think that was as good an innings as I've seen him play because he was under great pressure after a poor first-innings performance from the team," said Gooch, England's batting coach and himself the scorer of 20 Test hundreds.
Until yesterday, that was Cook's total but he moved to 21 with a dogged exhibition of defensive batting in the cause of saving a match for England that had seemed lost when they trailed on the first innings by 330.
"Alastair crafted a century today," said Gooch. "It wasn't a flamboyant innings, he did the job that was necessary. It is a different skill to scoring a hundred; the boy just made it happen.
"The skill of scoring runs is being adaptable, you can't score the same way every time. You have to tailor the way you play to the conditions."
In a way the position of the match was ideal for Cook's equable temperament. He could simply bat to stay without worrying much, or at all, about accruing runs, while possessing the powers of concentration and sense of purpose to do it.
"It was great commitment from our guys and great fighting spirit," said Gooch (right). "There was belief in their own ability and Alastair led from the front as captain. He can do it because he is one of the best players in the world. It is not just physical skill I'm talking about; you need skill between the ears. This lad has had a great temperament from when he first started and came here to make his debut."
Cook played his first Test in India six years ago after being summoned from an England A tour in West Indies. Two days after arriving he opened the innings in Nagpur and made 60 and 104no. He has rarely looked back since.Reuse content