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.

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
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

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas