Home > Features >

Alastair Cook’s delayed declaration cost England victory in 1st Test against Sri Lanka at Lord’s

Alastair Cook could not send a message to the critics with his decision to delay the declaration © Getty Images
Alastair Cook could not send a message to the critics with his decision to delay the declaration © Getty Images

Sri Lanka drew the first Test against England at Lord’s in one of the most nail-biting encounters in the history of cricket. With the ninth wicket falling in the final over, Nuwan Pradeep played out five balls from Stuart Broad to ensure Sri Lanka left Lord’s with their heads held high. On the previous evening, however, Alastair Cook had let Gary Ballance bat on, thereby delaying England’s declaration. Abhishek Mukherjee criticises a terribly defensive move that set English cricket back another step during this phase of doldrums.

Graeme Smith had no business declaring at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) in 2005-06. However, with his side down 0-1 in the series, he had decided to go all out, and had set Australia 287 in 76 overs on the final day. Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden’s devastating partnership (182 in 200 balls) had sealed the Test for Australia.

Rahul Dravid had declared with Sachin Tendulkar on 194 not out; Sunil Gavaskar, with himself on 182; Michael Atherton, on Graeme Hick’s 98; Imran Khan, when Javed Miandad was on 280; all captains wanted their sides to win. They put their teams above personal triumphs, had taken some flak from the critics as a result, but were generally hailed for the decisions.

Alastair Cook did not. One can say the England went on the defensive after that burst from Sri Lanka‘s Shaminda Eranga and that excellent support from Rangana Herath that had left them reeling at 121 for six. What followed was an excellent rearguard action from Gary Ballance and Chris Jordan, and the Test was as good as saved.

Then the fun began. With 16 overs to go for stumps on Day Four, England were at 178 for six, a comfortable 300 runs ahead. Surprisingly, there were no instructions from Cook to get on with the score: it was as if he wanted Ballance to get his hundred, without any instruction to get things going.

It was almost excruciatingly agonising: with eight overs left in the day, Ballance played out a maiden over to Eranga. England led by 330. It was Broad who came to party [not Ballance], scoring a breezy 18-ball 24: of course, there was no question of a declaration, since Ballance was already on 90. So they played on, with nine coming off the next two overs.

By then there was no point in declaring, since the day’s play would have been over: Ballance brought up his hundred in the final over of the day [and England scored two off the last five balls]. Somewhere in this world, Hick, his fellow Zimbabwean-born Englishman, must have rued a certain Atherton declaration.

What did Cook gain out of batting on for that extra half-hour? He let Ballance reach a hundred [a sublime one, admittedly].

What did he lose out batting on for that extra half-hour? A victory!

It was an easy choice: a defensive approach has seldom won anyone Tests. Unfortunately, Cook, who could have sent a message to the critics with his decision, chose not to. It could have marked the beginning of an English comeback after the Ashes 2013-14 whitewash.

He simply thought Ballance’s hundred was more important. And paid the price!

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

Bangladesh Tour of West Indies, 2014

Sep 13, 2014 (19:30 IST)   at Gros Islet, St Lucia

World T20 League 2014

Sep 16, 2014 (16:00 IST)   at Raipur

World T20 League 2014

Sep 16, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Raipur

World T20 League 2014

Sep 17, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Hyderabad

World T20 League 2014

Sep 18, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Mohali

More

World T20 League 2014

Sep 14, 2014  at Raipur

Mumbai Indians won by 9 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 14, 2014  at Raipur

Northern Knights won by 72 runs

World T20 League 2014

Sep 13, 2014  at Raipur

Lahore Lions won by 6 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 13, 2014  at Raipur

Northern Knights won by 7 wkts

Scotland tour of Ireland, 2014

Sep 12, 2014  at Dublin

Scotland won by 8 wkts

Photos

India tour of England 2014: Highlights

Videos

Ajmal addresses media after being suspended

Live Cricket Score Southern Express vs Lahore Lions CLT20 2014: Lions close in on win

Perth Scorchers in CLT20 2014 Preview: BBL champions start as underdogs

Jonty Rhodes — what if the famous leap to run-out Inzamam-ul-Haq hadn’t come off

Champions League T20 (CLT20) 2014: Lahore Lions’ fate mimics that of Pakistan

CLT20 2014 Qualifier Match 6: Mumbai Indians vs Northern Knights — Key battles

Bangladesh Bangladesh vs West Indies Bangladesh vs West Indies 2014 Champions League T20 Champions League T20 2014 CLT20 CLT20 2014 Lahore Lions Mumbai Indians Mumbai Indians vs Lahore Lions Northern Knights Southern Express West Indies West Indies vs Bangladesh West Indies vs Bangladesh 2014

West Indies vs Bangladesh, Live Cricket Score 2nd Test Day 4:

Goa Cricket Association gets more time to reply to notice

Southern Express vs Lahore Lions, 5th Qualification Match in CLT20: Jehan Mubarak, Farveez Maharoof dismissed by Adnan Rasool

CLT20 2014 Live Scorecard: Mumbai Indians vs Northern Knights

Southern Express vs Lahore Lions, 5th Qualification Match in CLT20: Southern Express in deep trouble

Hobart Hurricanes in CLT20 2014, Preview: Underdogs, who have their task cut out

Test Cricket: Then and Now

Dolphins in CLT20 2014 Preview: South African champions can be a surprise package

Perth Scorchers in CLT20 2014 Preview: BBL champions start as underdogs

Jonty Rhodes — what if the famous leap to run-out Inzamam-ul-Haq hadn’t come off

Fan of the Day

Suraj Gowda

Suraj Gowda

635 Posts | 7 Fans

Yuvraj Singh in Anupam Kher show

PayPal takes a swing at Apple Pay security over “iCloud hack”

Bigg Boss pair Tanishaa Mukerji and Armaan Kohli getting married!

Is Shahid Kapoor taking a dig at Kareena Kapoor Khan?

International programme in Animal Husbandry

K.K. Paul takes oath as acting Mizoram governor

‘Global selfie’ to send Earth’s self-portrait into space

George Clooney to be honoured at Golden Globes

How do I style curly hair? (Male Grooming Query)

Southern Express vs Lahore Lions, 5th Qualification Match in CLT20: Southern Express in deep trouble

CLT20 2014 Live Scorecard: Mumbai Indians vs Northern Knights

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here