Raise a glass to toast opener's ugly hundred

Alastair Cook is not the sort of batsman to empty bars. Even his closest friends would admit there are more pleasurable cricketing experiences than watching him bat for an entire day. But even now, after just 24 Test appearances, Cook is being tipped by many to overtake Graham Gooch as England's highest run-scorer.

That such bold predictions are being made of a player who is 6,964 runs short of English cricket's most prolific batsman shows how highly the 22-year-old is regarded, and yesterday's mightily impressive 118 gave a great example of his capabilities.

There are many cricketerswho go through an entire career without knowing exactly what sort of player they are. Some are limited but try to be expansive; others are constantly tinkering with their game, believing there is a better way. Cook, however, looked the part even before he made his Test debut in Nagpur 20 months ago.

For a batsman, it is the strokes you think you can play that is the problem. Cook knows his limitations. He is aware that no matter how hard he tries, he is never going to bat like Brian Lara, Sanath Jayasuriya or Adam Gilchrist, and he seems perfectlyhappy to accept that. It would come as no surprise to find out that he actually takes great pleasure in scoring ugly runs.

Cook's strengths are plentiful. He is brave, intelligent and ambitious. At the crease he is unflappable, against pace or spin, and he possesses a sound and simple technique.

The most encouraging thing about Cook, though, is that he is constantly improving, as has been witnessed during the Test series against Sri Lanka. He is a quick learner and he adapts to the set of circumstances that are put in front of him. In the First Test in Kandy, Chaminda Vaas had him in all sorts of trouble, trapping him lbw for nought and then luring him into playing at a ball he should have left alone on four.

They were dismissals that tend to follow one another, caused by an over-correction. As a result of trying to get his front foot outside the line of off-stump, to reduce the chances of being given out lbw, he found himself playing at wideish balls he should have left alone. In between the First and Second Tests he went away, worked things out for himself, and passed 50 in three of his next four innings. And on the occasion he failed during England's first-innings dbcle here it is disputable whether he should have been given out.

Prior to the tour it was felt that Cook's problems would start once Vaas, Lasith Malinga and Dilhara Fernando had finished their opening bursts, when Muttiah Muralitharan was introduced into the attack. Good players of spin have soft hands. They push forward gently, and when the ball hits the bat it is as though the implement is a feather pillow.

Cook goes hard at the ball, gripping the handle low down and hard. But in this series, Muralitharan did not dismiss Cook once. Test cricket's highest wicket-taker bowled enough balls at the left-hander, and there were many occasions when Cook looked like getting out, but he did not. Cook's determination allowed him to win that battle. Again it was a wonderful example of what can be achieved through hard work, a correct assessment of how to play Murali and where to try to score runs. These assets will make him a strong candidate to take over as England's captain when Vaughan decides he has had enough.

Cook may not make you down your pint but he is just the sort of dependable, solid, consistent batsman England need at the top of the order, and he will be there for many years to come.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor