Alastair Cook 3rd in Test Rankings

Who’d have thought or predicted that 12 months ago? I certainly wouldn’t off and I would have thought anyone who did say this would probably need to go and see their doctor.

Cook is now ranked above Sachin Tendulkar, Cook is now ranked above Sachin Tendulkar, it’s that unbelievable I’ve had to write it twice.
At the moment Jonathan Trott is ranked 5th and Ian Bell is ranked 7th. I believe the upturn in England’s form over the last 12 months is largely down to these three.
I know it’s a team game and everybody contributes, but 12 months ago the batsmen weren’t getting big scores like they currently are. Behind the stumps Matt Prior was doing his job and the bowlers were very consistent, on the whole we were a decent side.
Now with the batsmen getting the sheer weight of runs we currently are, all the units in the side are firing. When you have 450 on the board nearly all the time, rather than 250, it must make bowling seem that bit easier.
For me, the day our batting turned the corner was when Stuart Broad and Jonathan Trottt put on that partnership of 332 runs against Pakistan at Lord’s at the end of August 2010. Since then we haven’t looked back.
I will be looking in more details at the statistics over the next few days, but I can write with a fair amount of confidence that there hasn’t been too many failures since that day and this has been reflected in the results.

Is Alastair Cook the English Matthew Hayden?

Alastair Cook’s England career has had it’s ups and downs. He started off like a house on fire, then for about 2-3 years he was a bit like Graham Thorpe was (in his earlier career) when he kept getting to 70, 80, or 90 before chucking his wicket away.

Then for 18 months he went through a stage when he was absolute crap, before this golden 12 months in which he seems to have become England’s version of Matthew Hayden.
In the latter part of Hayden’s career when ever he got a century it always seemed to be a massive one – and lately that’s exactly what Alastair Cook has been doing.
I was delighted to see him get his three figures today, it would have been a bit of an injustice had he failed in this series, given the 12 months he has just had. He hasn’t totally had the rub of the green against India, with one or two questionable decisions also.
A hundred would also have been a nice monkey to get off Andrew Strauss’ back with the odd media vulture making an issue out of his century count lately, I don’t agree with criticism about his runs, but it’s the media driven world we live in these days. Hopefully his day will come at the Oval.
Am off to Edgbaston tomorrow. Expect England to throw the bat and declare or get bowled out, so should be entertaining. Then maybe I might get lucky and be treated to Sachin’s one hundredth hundred, who knows?

Thoughts at end of 2nd Test

I think it would be fair to say that the 2nd test wasn’t the England teams greatest performance lately.

They did do well to fight back from 22/3 on first morning, but the bowling was poor, there was some sloppy moments in the field and did they really push that hard for the win on Day 5?

I don’t want to sound like I’m criticising them, as I’m not. But if I am comparing England to the Australia team of 5 years ago, then I’d have to say that Australia would have put the runs on the board needed by lunch and would have really pressurised Sri Lanka in the afternoon.

England didn’t do that, if they are to be the No.1 side in the world, then they will need to improve on what they produced. We are a good side, but still have a lot of work to do to come up to the standards the management are talking about.

What a run of form Alastair Cook is now in. I find it hard to believe that this is the same player I thought should have been dropped about 9 months ago. With regard to pushing for the victory, could he have hurried up a bit on the fifth morning? Probably yes.

Also is he trying to become the new KP with that shot he attempted to bring up his hundred in the 1st innings?

The bowling wasn’t great either, Steven Finn will probably be the one too make way for the return of Jimmy Amderson, and I believe that’s fair enough. Finn was no worse than Tremlett and Broad, but he is the fill in man and while his performance was ok, it didn’t demand he be picked for the next test.

I’m not one for Umpire bashing, but I have to comment on Billy Doctrove and Rod Tucker. The cricketing authorites can issue all the guidelines surrounding the implementation of the bad light rule that they want. But if they employ idiots to implement the guidelines, you have no chance.

What were Doctrove and Tucker doing on Monday afternoon? It was a joke. Doctrove’s performance didn’t improve much either when he failed to call for a TV replay for Ian Bell’s runout. How can Aleem Dar be sat in the 3rd Umpire’s chair, with those two out in the middle? It doesn’t seem right too me.

It looks like it’s Alastair Cook

I see it’s being widely reported tonight that Alastair Cook is going to be confirmed as England’s 50 over team captain tomorrow.

From a purely cricketing point of view I’m not totally in favour of this, but looking at the bigger picture and the limited options available, what else could England really have done?

The cricketing point of view that I’m not convinced by is, is Alastair Cook good enough to hold down a place in the 50 over side?

But in the bigger picture, if Strauss is retiring we really need a proper opener, Cook obviously works well with Andy Flower and he is also the natural successor to Strauss as captain in the test team.

Another down side to this is that England look like they also need a new T20 captain. Making Cook the 50 over captain might be a risk, but there is absolutely no way in the world that he can captain the T20 side. KP and Broad are the names in the frame to replace Collingwood.

In my view, having two captains is probably one too many, having three cannot be healthy at all for the long term good of the team.

The positive thing about it all is that Cook and Strauss seem like level headed guys who aren’t going to try to undermine each other too further their own cause, the same with Broad.
What happens with Kevin Pietersen and the T20 captaincy will be interesting though, he is supposed to have said he is happy to be considered for captain again. There were also stories flying around that he annoyed the England management by returning home early from the world cup and that they doubted his commitment.
If he is overlooked, then how will this be interpreted?
It will be interesting too see what is said at tomorrow’s press conference where we will find out if the press are right about Cook’s appointment, and in time we will find out if Andy Flower is right about Cook’s capabilities.

An Apology to Alastair Cook

When I wrote my rather critical profile of Alastair Cook last week, I mentioned at the end that I would be only too happy to be proved wrong and write an apology to Cook at the end of the series, should it go well for him.

Well I’m going early, I don’t think there is any need to wait any longer. I’ve just about recovered from the shock of the last two days and the embarrassment of how stupid you can be made to look over something you have written (or most of what I have written lately). So here goes,

I’m really sorry Alastair for claiming that you are nothing more than a flat track bully who only scores big runs against Windies and Bangladesh.

I’m also sorry for claiming that you talk a better game than you actually play, and that the only reason you have not been dropped lately is because you are the captain in waiting.

With regard to the odds on you being top English series run scorer, I’m sorry for saying that I wouldn’t touch the 6/1 on offer with a barge poll.

I’m also sorry for myself for not taking the 6/1 on offer for you being top English batsman, but never mind, I’m used to making balls ups like that.

And I’m sorry for thinking that you would score less than the 302 runs you scored at Brisbane, over the course of the whole series.

I wasn’t the only one either, I saw a spread bet last week that had Cook down to only score between 260 and 280 runs in the whole series.

It was a remarkable innings. I don’t think I have ever seen Cook go out and play with such positive intent as he did in the 2nd innings here. His century against Pakistan was positive by previous standards, but this surpassed that innings by a mile.

Hopefully this is just the start for Cook and he can now go on and score plenty more runs. If he dosen’t have the self belief now, he never will.

It was also pleasing to see Jonathan Trott get rewarded for his good year by climbing to 8th in the test batting rankings. It’s strange to think he looked the most vulnerable batsman after the tour of South Africa last year.

I still see Trott as the man to really get under the Aussie’s skin during this series.

And a mention too for Jimmy Anderson. He is another one whom I wasn’t totally convinced by coming into this series. I thought he bowled brilliantly in this test match, the spell he bowled at Hussey and Haddin on the 3rd morning was as good a spell of bowling I have watched for a long time.

How he never made the breakthrough, only Aleem Dar knows!

Maybe I need to put the boot into Paul Collingwood now, then he will probably score a century as well.

Ashes Profile – Alastair Cook

My 18 month old daughter thinks that he is the bloke that presents CBeebies and sometimes I think it is the bloke from CBeebies who opens the batting for England.

There is always one of these sort of blokes everywhere, the one who you can’t understand why they are where they are. It dosen’t matter whether it is in work or sport, they are there.

How does that bloke keep his job? Or his place in the team? Is he a distant relative of the boss? Cos if I was that bad, I’d be long gone by now. Is he the son-in-law? Or does he have a photo of his boss in a compromising position on Clapham Common?

England’s version of that bloke is Alastair Cook. How this man has not been dropped over the last 2-3 years is a total mystery to me. It’s fair to say that Cook is another one of those England players to benefit from the patience of the selectors.

He always makes the same mistakes time after time, all his dismissals are the bloody same. I drive for a living and generally listen to TMS. Every time Cook is dismissed I can picture it in my head, I don’t need to watch it on the tele when I get home because in my mind I can already see what he’s done.

And when I do watch it, yes, it is exactly as I suspected.

If ever there was a batting analogy of Shane Warne’s ‘he’s played 1 test 33 times’ theory, then surely Cook is it.

But he is one of those players who somehow hangs in there, continually just doing enough as opposed to someone who excels. He always seems to be half asleep in the field too, the match winning half chances are rarely taken.

Believe it or not, I’m not a hater of Cook, I just think he has got away with things a bit too much. This isn’t just a unsubstansiated rant towards him, I generally feel that Cook has not progressed for 2-3 years now, in fact I’d say he has gone backwards.

Another thing that annoys me about him is he’s not slow on giving an opinion to the media, he talks an absolutely brilliant game. I just end up thinking to myself ‘why don’t you just shut up and let your batting do the talking’. (I suppose the answers obvious)

He averages just 26.21 against Australia which is truely aweful, against Bangladesh it is 66.83 and West Indies 61.93. People used to say Matthew Hayden was a flat track bully, next to Cook he must look like Bradman.

In fairness to Cook, his average is a respectable 45.30 against Sri Lanka, 44.00 against SA, 40.53 against India and 30.80 against New Zealand, so only the Kiwi average is letting him down there.

He showed great temperament when he first got into the side, thats probably part of the reason he keeps his place, that and the fact he’s pencilled in as the next captain (please no). He sounds like a real tryer as well.

He also played a very gutsy innings against Pakistan to (alledgedly) save his place, but it typified everything that is wrong with English sport in general, we only seem to pull a performance out of the bag at the last minute to save our skin.

Aussies see him as a major weak link and I hope I’m proved wrong. This could cost England in this series if he becomes a walking wicket and the selectors refuse to give him the boot.

I know this write up seems very neagative, I will be only too happy to write an apology on here and say I got things wrong if Cook has a successful series – and I really hope I have the need to do so.

But if he fails again surely it is time to have a look at someone else.

Cook is 5th favourite in the betting be top English batsman at a best price of 6/1 with Bet365, quite frankly, I wouldn’t touch it with a barge poll.

The real reason why Bell keeps his place

Seeing Ian Bell maintain his place in the England side for the 2nd Test against South Africa might disappoint more than a few fans who think he has more than had enough chances, it may well also have people scratching their heads wondering what the selectors see in him.

Could it be that just two tests ago he scored a battling 1st innings 72 at The Oval against Australia in the deciding Ashes test, top scoring (in 1st inns) and going a long way to setting up the test and series victory?

Or is it more likely that the selectors keep him in the side to take the heat off captain in waiting and a man they have invested a lot of time and effort into, the woefully out of form and having major technical problems, the found out star that is Alastair Cook.

In sticking with Bell – when England clearly needed a fifth bowler in the 1st test – the selectors are less likely to have to answer questions about Cook’s form and why they didn’t bring a spare top order batsman. In other words they won’t have to admit they got things wrong with the selection of the touring party!

All joking aside, neither man looks in any great shape. Alastair Cook looked all at sea in the 1st test and seemed that preoccupied with worrying about his feet and trying to implement his newly worked on (with Graham Gooch) technique that he seemed to miss the most obvious fundamental thing for a batsman – judging and playing the next ball on it’s merits.

I don’t doubt for a minute that Cook has not put in an immense amount of hard work in trying to rebuild his floundering test career since the Ashes series, working with Graham Gooch, he has attempted to remould his batting technique.

That could be regarded as a very high risk strategy going into a test series against a side as good as South Africa. After all, up until 12-18 months ago his technique had gone ok, so was it really worth him tearing up the script and starting again? I’m not so sure.

He has two test hundreds this year, both against West Indies. One was on a pudding wicket in the 4th test at Barbados. The other was in the home series at Chester-le-Street in May 2009 when West Indies turned up in presence only. Test centuries they might be, defining innings of note they are not.

I watch him at the moment and think he might as well just throw caution to the wind and go out and play a few shots and try to release the shackles.

In the case of Ian Bell, here is another thorn in the selectors side. Currently playing his 51st test and with the exception of the 2006 home series against Pakistan, he has never really looked at home in the side.

He has the footwork, the technique, all the shots, looks complete at the crease and is the textbook batsman of the England side, all these are the reasons the selectors stick with him.

He just seems to be lacking in that important area between the ears. He dosen’t appear to have that self belief that he belongs at test level, the body language is never great and it shows to the opposition.

He dosen’t look like he can even impose his character on his own team mates, let alone the opposition. Shane Warne summed him up with that memorable nickname in the Ashes series 2006/07.

Just how much longer the selectors can go on hoping he can finally turn that corner, who knows? The fact that he has already played 50 tests shows how much Geoff Miller and co want him to succeed. The opposite school of thought would suggest that if he hasn’t come good by now, he never will.

With only Luke Wright on this tour as a viable batting option, it looks like the selectors will either have to stick with Cook and Bell, or play five bowlers with Bell missing out.

Either way they need one or both to come good as they have backed themselves into a corner with the squad selection, it is time they both stood up and delivered and repaid the faith the selectors have shown in them.

Alastair Cook wants to be Captain

So Alastair Cook fancies the job of captaining England in Bangladesh should the England management decide to give Andrew Strauss a rest and not take him on this tour.

There are two ways of looking at this possible scenario for me, the first is that Alastair Cook is deluding himself, that after he most probably gets taken to the cleaners by South Africa’s bowlers over the winter tour and has yet another failure of a series against one of the major test playing nations, that in the event of this happening would he still be in the team come Bangladesh?

Then there is the second scenario, the one that says I’m deluding myself thinking for a minute that Cook will get dropped if he fails again and thus continuing his average (at best) run of the last two years.

When I first heard this idea I thought that Alastair Cook was being a bit presumptuous expecting to still be in the team after the South Africa series. But then I thought about the facts and reliased that I am the one being presumptuous and totally irrational thinking Cook might get dropped if he fails again.

After all the selectors decided against taking Joe Denly to South Africa in the test squad, virtually assuring Cook of his place in the team for the whole tour no matter what. Also the selectors not only don’t see Cook’s place in the test side as a problem, they now deem him good enough to be recalled to the One Day Squad as well.

I’m not for a minute suggesting that I think Alastair Cook should be permanently ousted from team England or that I don’t think he is good enough, because in the long run I think he will be a decent player for England, I just get sick of this attitude towards the test batsmen that they seem undropable.

There never appears to be any sign from the selectors that players places are under threat and that they need to pull their fingers out, this culture of comfort seems to have rubbed off on them with these latest comments suggesting that Cook apparently already thinks his place on the Bangladesh tour is assured.

I assume Cook was asked this by a journalist and just responded with a positive answer rather than raising the issue himself, however for a batsman who in my view is lucky to still be in the test team maybe he should of straight batted the question and should wait and see if the issues with his batting that he has apparently been working on with Graham Gooch have been resolved before he worries about being the future England captain.

No need for England to panic – yet!

Despite the hammering England suffered at the hands of Australia in the 4th test at Headingley last weekend there is no reason for wholesale changes and major panicking as the series is 1-1 going into the final test with all still to play for – a position everyone involved in the England set up would probably have gladly taken if offered at the start of the series.

Yes, the batting line-up does look in disarray and badly struggles without the steadying hand of Kevin Pietersen, England’s only true World class batsman. The selectors will probably point to the fact that England have scored over 375 in all three of their 1st innings in this series before Headingley saying that the batting can’t be that bad.

The facts are though that the tail in all of the 1st three tests has had to bail out the batsmen in getting the total to respectability, it’s a team game after all the selectors would probably rightly argue. Only Andrew Strauss though (once) has scored three figures in any of the four tests in this series, and for the top five that just isn’t good enough.

As stated above this is no time for panic and wholesale changes, team changes should be kept to minimum – that is for sure. If the situation dosen’t improve at The Oval and the top 5 buckle under the pressure yet again though it should be a different matter.

The time will surely have arrived for a rethink in the batting department before the South Africa series and with Andrew Flintoff going as well England can start looking at rebuilding the team. How many times now have the likes of Cook, Bell, Collingwood and now a new face in Ravi Bopara failed against the major test playing nations.

If the feeble nature that they continuously surrender isn’t bad enough the brainless shot selection and ill discipline and apparent inability to think on their own two feet and learn from previous mistakes and experiences is enough to drive an England supporter mad.

For me changes need to be made at the end of this series, I applaud the selectors for their loyalty and reluctance to chop and change at the drop of a hat like in the really bad old days (which I’m not for a minute suggesting we are in now), but you get the feeling that this current batch have been shown a bit too much faith.

Haven’t we been here before, Collingwood was on the verge of getting dropped last season against South Africa until he got his 100 at Edgbaston in the 3rd test. Bell has done nothing since his 199 in the 1st test at Lord’s in the same series. Alastair Cook could easily have gone after the 1st test in West Indies ealier this year when Bell was dropped after England’s diabolical 51 all out.

Again I’m not suggesting wholesale changes but a rethink is certainly needed. All in the England set up seem to think Ravi Bopara is going to be a good test player and I’m not going to disagree with them, the problem is he looks like he might be better suited down the order, maybe at No.5 or 6.

Is Pietersen willing to move up to No.3? If not that is a long standing problem. Opener Alastair Cook has 3 hundreds since December 2007 (two of which against West Indies), not good enough for a test opener! Could he bat at No.3 if another opener could be found? England have a lot of questions to answer, they can’t go on stumbling around hoping things will put themselves right.

It’s great caning the West Indian and New Zealand bowling attacks around in English conditions – a task not much tougher than playing against county cricket attacks – but when it comes to the big boys they are continuously found wanting.