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)

World T20 League 2014

Oct 2, 2014 (16:00 IST)   at Hyderabad

World T20 League 2014

Oct 2, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Hyderabad

West Indies tour of India 2014, Practice match

Oct 3, 2014 (09:00 IST)   at Mumbai

Matador BBQs One-Day Cup, 2014

Oct 4, 2014 (05:00 IST)   at Woolloongabba, Brisbane

Matador BBQs One-Day Cup, 2014

Oct 4, 2014 (05:00 IST)   at Brisbane

More

World T20 League 2014

Sep 30, 2014  at Bengaluru

Barbados won by 6 wkts (D/L method)

World T20 League 2014

Sep 30, 2014  at Bengaluru

Perth Scorchers won by 3 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 29, 2014  at Hyderabad

Kolkata Knight Riders won by 36 runs

World T20 League 2014

Sep 28, 2014  at Mohali

Kings XI Punjab won by 7 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 28, 2014  at Mohali

Hobart Hurricanes won by 6 wkts

Photos

Cricket on Mt. Kilimanjaro

Videos

Brian Lara speaks on the art of batting

Mitchell Marsh helps Perth Scorchers clinch 3-wicket victory against Lahore Lions in CLT20 2014

Live Cricket Score Barbados Tridents vs Northern Knights CLT20 2014 Match 20: Barbados Tridents win by 6 wickets

Gautam Gambhir becomes second player after MS Dhoni to captain in 100 T20 matches

Consecutive century opening partnerships in ODIs for each team

Have Manish Pandey’s T20 performances eclipsed his impressive First-Class record?

Asian Games Asian Games 2014 Cape Cobras Champions League T20 2014 Chennai Super Kings CLT20 CLT20 2014 Dolphins India at Asian Games 2014 Kings XI Punjab Lahore Lions Perth Scorchers

Barbados Tridents vs Northern Knights CLT20 2014 Match 20: Tridents have their maiden win in CLT20 0214

Barbados Tridents vs Northern Knights CLT20 2014 Match 20: After decent start by Tridents, Knights make comeback with late wickets

Bangladesh Cricket Board: Nadir Shah ban still on

Barbados Tridents vs Northern Knights CLT20 2014 Match 20: Knights set target of 138 (D/L) in 19 overs

PCB unhappy with bouncy tracks at Dubai for Australia series

Highest score by a batsman when all the other batsmen got single digit scores in a T20 match

Gautam Gambhir becomes second player after MS Dhoni to captain in 100 T20 matches

Lahore Lions vs Perth Scorchers Match 19 CLT20 2014: Lahore likely XI

CLT20 2014: Lahore Lions vs Perth Scorchers Match 19 — Key Battles

Consecutive century opening partnerships in ODIs for each team

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

671 Posts | 6 Fans

Kolkata Knight Riders vs Kings XI Punjab- Final Match Highlights from IPL 2014

Microsoft’s Windows 10 unveiled

Ello might be ad-free, but it is far from claiming Facebook’s throne

Asian Games 2014 Live Streaming Day 12: Watch Live Stream & Telecast of 17th Incheon Asian Games

Navratri Day 7 Colour Blue: Simple and easy family styling tips for this Navratri

Alcohol could leave you sleepless even after you have quit

Bigg Boss 8 highlights: Payback time for Deepshikha Nagpal’s team with reverse Hijack, RJ Preetam’s team blames him for their defeat

Health Minister says UHAM to be world’s largest public health insurance programme

Pankaj Kapur saw son Shahid Kapoor’s Haider and said “It’s Okay”

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here