No one's laughing now as Cook perfects the art of one-day batting


Comedians, it is said, are frequently desperate to play Hamlet. Alastair Cook is brilliantly performing the opposite of this, the earnest, strait-laced Test batsman now cracking a series of one-day one-liners.

His 80 not out at the Rose Bowl on Tuesday night was but the latest glittering example of a player transmogrified. The innings came from 63 balls as England made mincemeat of a target of 188 from 23 overs.

When Cook took over the one-day captaincy earlier this season, having had a dress rehearsal in Bangladesh last year, it was widely proposed by almost anyone who was not a selector that he was not up to it. The observation that he had neither the range nor power of shot seemed perfectly valid.

His response has been overwhelming. It has not only been the weight of runs but the pace at which they have come. The critics have been scattered to the four winds where Cook now appears capable of hitting his strokes.

It is not always a comfortable sight and it is never elegant. But Cook somehow is forcing himself to adapt, playing shots down the ground and clearing the front leg to whip it to cow corner. Instead of carrying Yorick's skull he has a water-spraying carnation.

He has said: "It is not about proving the critics wrong, it is about winning games for England." But if the critics had not been proved wrong, the games would not have been won. England sneaked home 3-2 against Sri Lanka, the beaten World Cup finalists in July, and are now 1-0 ahead against India, the winners with three matches to play.

That this has been achieved so far in conditions alien to sub-continental batsman should not detract from Cook's skill in leading from the front. It is part of his quiet, steadfast character, but those who admire these qualities – among them the India coach, Duncan Fletcher, who knows a great deal about batting method – can never have expected this.

Ravi Bopara, who came up with Cook through the Essex ranks, said: "I think getting the captaincy is helping him. He has the sense of responsibility." Cook knew that with his role as captain had to come runs. England, whatever they say, knew they were taking a risk. A line had been drawn under his one-day career in 2008 when his fierce concentration and determination could not overcome other limitations of footwork and front-foot play.

His 23 innings until then had brought 702 runs but a strike rate of 68.16 runs per 100 balls was playing into the opposition's hands. Quietly, he returned to the Test ranks. There he might have stayed but when Andrew Strauss withdrew from the limited-overs game, England turned to Cook as a replacement. They had been pleased with what they saw in the three matches he played in Bangladesh early in 2010 and were convinced he could adjust.

The first glimmers of what he might be capable of appeared in the late summer of 2009 when he was not required by England and scored three rapid one-day hundreds for Essex. He remodelled his approach with his mentor, Graham Gooch, and if Gooch did not know it before he recognised then that there was a one-day player waiting to come out.

The 10 matches in which Cook has led England have brought him 538 runs from 553 balls, a strike rate of 97.29, which is higher than Adam Gilchrist's. This summer is now 101.26, above a run a ball. Although he hit a six on Tuesday night, it was still only his second in one-day internationals (he has hit 31 others in his professional career to show that they are not quite as rare as might be supposed).

But he is piercing the field with much greater alacrity. Those first 23 innings brought 77 fours, his 10 as captain have brought 60. Before, he was hitting a four every 13 balls, now it is a four every nine balls.

A one-day tour of India in October will tell us more. But when the serious actor first wanted to play the comic they cannot have expected this. Nobody, as they say, is laughing now.

* Jade Dernbach and Craig Kieswetter have both been awarded incremental contracts by England, the level below a central contract.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own