Upwardly mobile Cook must aim for twin peaks

England captain will need all his mental strength to win Tests and ODIs

England are the best one-day team in the world again. Their jubilation at this renewal of their status was restrained, if it ever started, and was consumed by their sheer relief at beating South Africa for the first time this summer in the third one-day international.

The fourth match is played today at Lord's and if England can prevail again they will have reason to believe that they are going places. The place they have in mind, of course, is not the top of the ICC world rankings, which in one-day terms are negligible.

They are a way of passing the time, and a full house at The Oval on Friday night was almost certainly blissfully unaware of what was at stake despite being rapt during an extremely dull contest in which there were too few runs and which was enlivened but briefly by Eoin Morgan's marvellous intervention of 73 from 67 balls.

What England are aiming at in 50-overs cricket, what every side is planning for, is the Champions Trophy in this country next year and, more pertinently still, the World Cup in Australia in 2015. These are the big prizes in one-day international cricket and every other match played is preparation for them.

By now, England will be thinking they have a chance in both. Under Alastair Cook this has been a good year. They have won 11 of the 13 matches they have played so far, with only one loss, and if they can somehow win the remaining two, real progress will have been made.

This is likely to be halted in its tracks when they play India in seven matches early next year, but in a sense that series is irrelevant. Watched by billions it may be, but the pitches there and the type of cricket necessary to compete are utterly unconnected to the conditions to be encountered in the next two major tournaments.

Cook's life changed for ever last week when he was appointed to succeed Andrew Strauss as England's Test captain. It will be fascinating to watch him cope now with juggling the balls.

Without displaying the attributes of a strategically cunning genius, he has been largely impressive as a one-day captain in his 31 matches, contributing heavy runs and changing his fields with ever greater purpose. But to a large extent he has been able to switch off in the Test matches, concentrating purely on scoring runs.

Not any longer. Cook is responsible for both teams, and giving equal weight to each will be extremely difficult. No, it will be impossible. Plotting England's return to the No 1 spot in the ICC Test rankings – which really do count – not to mention triumphing in two Ashes series, will take precedence above all else.

This is not to say that Test cricket is more important, though that may be so. It is simply the way it works in a captain's mind. As yet, this will not have quite sunk in. Everybody assumes that Cook will follow Strauss's template. Maybe, maybe not. He respected and admired Strauss but he has to be his own man with his own ideas, otherwise he may as well be linked up to his predecessor on the pitch.

Those who know Cook also know of his strength of mind, which is why he is such a dogged opening batsman. He will certainly know what he wants to do for England.

For now, he has South Africa on his hands. The tourists still look the superior team, but after Friday they have suddenly become beatable.

PROMOTED VIDEO
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

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?