Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Cook Stakes A Claim For The T20s

You can never write off Alastair Cook. He just has an innate desire to prove people wrong, going about his business quietly, effectively, and at a mind-numbing level of boring. After the talk of dropping him from the test side last summer, he then went on to have the winter to end all winters in Australia. Booted out of the ODI team, he comes back in, as captain, and makes stacks upon stacks of runs against Sri Lanka, pausing only to stick two fingers up at Michael Atherton everytime he got to yet another milestone. Only a return to the T20 team, which he was written off for long ago stands between Cook and the world domination of being the best batsman in all three formats of the game.

The rain affected ODI at the Rose Bowl was the perfect opportunity to show the selectors that he can play the shortest form. He already has a T20 hundred, don't you know. Faced with a potentially tough chase of 188, Cook carried his bat, making an unbeaten 80 off just 63 balls. He even hit a six.

As match-winning as it was, I still just don't see Alastair Cook as a T20 player. The Indian attack was woefully one-paced, and didn't offer much resistance to Cook's relentless dabs into the on-side. And while it was scored at a fairly decent lick (a strike rate of 127 isn't the best, but he was no stick in the mud), he just didn't score many boundaries. His 50 came up off 38 balls, and only included three fours (and that worldy of a six). He ran the ones hard and the twos harder, and while that should be applauded, against better fielding sides than a cold bunch of Indian second teamers, he won't be able to milk it as easily as he did. Cook will want to open - which means batting in the powerplay, and that means finding gaps and hitting boundaries. England's World T20 win was based on Lumb and Kieswetter getting them off to a flyer early, before big hitters came in and carried on the good work. The fact of the matter is that there are far better candidates to blaze it around at the top of the order than Alastair Cook. Cook would also expect to come in and captain, and judging by some of the odd decisions (Dernbach 5 overs for 49, Bresnan 4 overs for 43 yet Jimmy Anderson who bowled 3 overs for just 11 isn't seen again after a superb opening spell) he may not be best suited to do that either.

However, if watching Alastair Cook over the past year has taught me anything, it's to never write off Alastair Cook. He clearly believes he has a future as an international T20 player, so he will try his damndest to impress on the selectors that he should be playing in T20s for England. Cook is in the middle of a run of form that suggests he could score runs in any situation or in any format, and the unbeaten 80, as unglamourous and unflashy as it was may go some way to showing the powers that be that he should be in England's T20 team. Whether Stuart Broad, who was given the captaincy assuming Cook wouldn't get into the T20 team agrees or not is a different matter...

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