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Alastair Cook overcame a prolonged run of poor form to score a crucial 95 on Day One of the third Test between India and England at Southampton. Shiamak Unwalla analyses an innings that could change the fortunes of the English side.
Alastair Cook must be a very relieved man. He has faced some major setbacks in recent times, both as a batsman and as captain. In his last 28 innings, he has crossed 50 just seven times, with his highest being the 95 he scored against India in the ongoing Southampton Test. As captain, he has failed to win nine matches in a row, and has lost seven of those nine games.
Ever since the Ashes 2013 in England, Cook has struggled for runs. While England managed to win that series, but they crashed and burned in the Australian leg of the Ashes, and were subsequently outplayed by both Sri Lanka and India, albeit in just one match. For a man who was battling detractors left and right, this knock of 95 would be invaluable. The commentators felt that despite missing out on his hundred, Cook would be extremely satisfied deep down.
Unlike most left-handers, Cook’s strokeplay can rarely be termed elegant. He lacks of aesthetic beauty; he does not possess the fluidity of Ian Bell, the belligerence of Kevin Pietersen, or the serenity of a fully-fit Jonathan Trott.
However, the fact that he went past David Gower to climb up to the third spot in the list of England’s all-time run-scorers, after having gone past Kevin Pietersen in the first session of the day, says something about the ability that Cook possesses. He missed out on his 26th Test ton — he already holds the record for most hundreds by an Englishman — but scored his 2,000th run as captain during the course of his innings.
Cook’s innings was far from fluent. He was dropped on 15 — an easy chance that Ravindra Jadeja in the slips would have caught nine times out of ten. Had it not been for the reprieve, it would have been just another failure for Cook. There have been so many of late.
But Cook battled on. He was beaten outside the off-stump more times than he would like to recount. He was nearly run-out at least twice, and didn’t play a confident shot till he was past 50. However, once he did pass 50, some of the old confidence was back. He was not quite the Cook of old, but he was getting there.
A combination of a flat deck and some wayward bowling by the Indians helped him on his way. When he was finally dismissed — for an often scratchy, sometimes attractive, but mostly mediocre 95 runs — he had helped England into a position of strength. From here, it will take something very special — or very bizarre — for England to lose their advantage.
With Cook finally scoring some valuable runs, his confidence will be much higher than it has been in a year. His batting confidence will quite possibly spill into his captaincy, and that will bode very well for England. This is a very good chance for England to arrest its slide. If they do, this innings from Cook may well have been a catalyst.
(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)
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