Steady Cook can fill boots as faults ironed out
Sunday 23 May 2010
When the first ball of the first Test of the summer is bowled at Lord's on Thursday, the start of the Ashes tour will not be much more than five months distant. Like it or not, every match involving England players – or potential England players – between now and then will be examined for any implications for the winter series, and in many respects winning the World Twenty20 appears to have complicated the situation.
As far as Alastair Cook is concerned, however, the only thing it has changed is to make it even harder for him to break into England's one-day sides. It remains an ambition, of course, and the 25-year-old Essex opener intends to make as many runs as possible when turning out for his county in the Friends Provident T20 competition next month, but in conversation there is a clear sense that Cook knows what counts from here is Test runs.
While Michael Lumb and Craig Kieswetter were handed a licence to hit in the West Indies, Cook, along with the England captain Andrew Strauss, has been feeling his way to some sort of form in rather different conditions, as he acknowledged slightly ruefully last week.
"I had a couple of 40s and a 50, then not much for a couple of games, but it's early-season and with no heavy rollers now it can be a little bit tough against the new ball. There are some fine bowlers in Division One, it's just been jagging around a bit, and I've managed to nick some, which is bad in one way, but maybe good in another. At least I've been good enough to nick them."
Cook grinned. "You always have to look at the positives don't you? That's what Goochie tells me."
In this context, his unbeaten 42 from 55 balls as England Lions easily knocked off the runs to beat a disappointingly weak Bangladesh were not without value. Cook continues to feel that the alterations in his batting technique made under Graham Gooch's tutelage before – and during – England's tour to South Africa last year have made him into a better player. "I ironed out some faults in South Africa, which helped me score a lot of runs in Bangladesh, so I feel the changes I made have got me heading in the right direction, and it's pleasing to know the work I'm doing is the right work," says Cook.
Now more side-on and upright at the crease, and with a straighter backlift, Cook looks in decent touch and is likely to fill his boots against Bangladesh. But Pakistan's bowlers will ask more questions later this summer, and Cook is aware he is under more pressure for his Test berth than in previous years.
"There's always pressure, although I think you want to try and have continuity in terms of selection as well as the captaincy," he says. "[England head coach] Andy Flower has talked about that. But it helps everybody if you make scores."
Not least the selectors.
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