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Cook confounds critics

By Glen Robertson

Staggering as it may seem when you look at his record, Alastair Cook has come in for criticism for his captaincy of the England Test side. 

Since taking over from Andrew Strauss on a full-time basis in August 2012, following the home series defeat by South Africa, Cook has masterminded victories over India, New Zealand and Australia. 

Out of the four series he has led England in, five if you include the 2010 tour of Bangladesh when Cook deputised for a rested Strauss, there have been four victories and one draw - the latter in New Zealand. 

He led England to a first win in India for 24 years and then comfortably saw off Australia in his first Ashes series as skipper during the summer. 

Alastair Cook celebrates with Graeme Swann as England take two wickets in three minutes to get back into the second TestOf the 16 Tests, 18 including Bangladesh, England have lost just two - the opening matches of the tours of India and Australia. 

Yet he was been labelled too negative by some commentators, who believe England should be playing more attack-minded cricket. Cook was too preoccupied by not losing instead of taking risks in the pursuit of victory, some said. 

Nobody was making those claims today, however, after Cook displayed all the nous of a much more experienced captain to pull the tourists back into the second Ashes Test in Adelaide. 

At the second drinks break in the afternoon session, Australia were threatening to take the game out of sight, with Chris Rogers and Shane Watson both having recorded fifties. 

Cook called his troops into a huddle and set about telling them how they were going to get back into the game. 

Two quick wickets later, England had done it. 

After pressure was built up, James Anderson had Watson caught and bowled and three minutes later Rogers had edged Graeme Swann behind. Monty Panesar got in on the act to oust Steven Smith before tea. 

The spell from Panesar that accounted for Smith began with him replacing Swann the over after the Nottinghamshire off-spinner dismissed the left-handed Rogers.

Departing from the convention of leaving a wicket-taker with his tail up in the attack, Cook turned to his slow left-armer to retain the weapon of the ball turning away from the batsmen in situ - now an all right-handed partnership in the form Smith and his skipper Michael Clarke. It was a gamble that paid off spectacularly.

There could have been further scalps, with three catches put down in the field as Australia were repeatedly living dangerously against inventive, attacking fields, that were constantly changed to keep the batsmen thinking. 

But the game remains in the balance. England must remove Clarke and Brad Haddin early tomorrow morning and then bat well. 

You can bet that Cook has plans set ready to execute in the field, enabling him to get out and bat later on in the day. 

And how fitting it would be for him to follow up a superb display of leadership in the field with his first Test ton since his 130 against New Zealand at Headingley in May.

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