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?
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
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

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home