Will the Ageas Bowl come to Alastair Cook’s rescue again?
Will Alastair Cook make it count at Southampton? (Getty Images)

For England to regroup and win seal the Test series with a win against India at Southampton, they will require their key batsmen to deliver, none more than Alastair Cook. The former England captain has struggled to score runs in this series, accumulating just 80 runs in five innings. His average reads a poor 19 in eight Tests this year.

But if history is anything to go by, Cook’s fortunes can change at the Ageas Bowl.

This year, Cook has scored just one half-century in 14 innings and there are question marks over his longevity. He scored a magnificent double hundred against Australia in the boxing day Test at Melbourne in 2017 which helped England draw their only game in the last Ashes series which they lost 0-4.

Cook also scored 243 against West Indies at home in the last season but his performances have dried up considerably over longer periods. He has not been able to get past 30 in the current Test series with a string of low scores 13, 0, 21, 29 and 17 in the five opportunities he has got in the middle in the last three Tests.

With the kind of form Cook is in, the fact that the fourth Test against India is being played at Southampton is just the motivation he needs. Remember the last time India toured England? 2014? The first Test was drawn, second won at Lord’s, but from there began India’s downward spiral, and one of the chief architects of their deafeat was none other than Cook. The then-England captain was in the middle of a career drought that saw him go two years without a Test century, but at the Ageas Bowl, with a packed crowd cheering him from the onset, Cook overcame his dry patch and scored 95 and 70.

Cook had a chance grassed early in the innings, when he was dropped at slips by Ravindra Jadeja off the bowling of Pankaj Singh. Singh went on to play just one more match for India – the next Test, but Cook had gifted his career a fresh lease of life. He labelled that first innings as “the most pressure I have been under as a player,” and helped England to a 266-run win that sparked a come-from-behind 3-1 series victory.

Four years later, England are slightly better placed than they were in 2014. Despite India turning the tables, England still hold the lead. But for Cook, time seems to be running out. With 12225 runs in Tests, he is England’s most prolific batsman, but the lack of than once prominent batting might has gone missing. A figure of immense concentration and immaculate shot selection, Cook looks uncertain about his off stump, whether to play or leave, whether to go front or shift back.

“It was brilliant, wasn’t it?”, Joe Root said at Southampton on Wednesday, as his mind harked back to four years ago.

“I remember being sat in the dressing room almost a little bit emotional for him. That was the feeling within the group, how much he means to the squad. We are fully aware of what he’s capable of doing.

“It was nice to have that support heard from outside the four walls of the changing room. It was a shame he didn’t get a hundred. That was a big week for him in turning round where his game was at.”

England’s greatest Test batsman is in a quandary, and while many factors would combine to help him get out of it, the venue for the fourth Test between the two countries presents the possibility of a promising beginning on Cook’s road to redemption.