Cook basks in Ashes triumph
Alastair Cook reflected on an “incredible two months” in the wake of his man-of-the-series performance in England’s first Ashes win in Australia for 24 years.
Plaudits had been few and far between for the opener in the months building up to the tour, with his place in the side being questioned by some quarters.
However, he has responded in fine style, cracking an incredible 766 runs - the second most by England batsman in any series - to help the tourists retain the Ashes courtesy of a thumping 3-1 win.
En route to earning the Compton-Miller medal, Cook struck three magnificent centuries, including a career-best 235 not out in the opening Test at Brisbane, while setting a new record for the most time spent in the middle during a five-Test series - 2,171 minutes.
He was instrumental as Andrew Strauss became the first England skipper to win Down Under since Mike Gatting in 1986-87 and his performances will live long in the memory of those who had the pleasure of watching.
But, in keeping with the England mantra of the last 18 months, the 26-year-old was quick to deflect the praise away from himself, insisting the success was a team effort.
“It’s been an incredible two months,” he told ecb.co.uk/video. “We have worked very hard, not just over here but in the build-up to this tour as well and it makes it all the more special.
“Although we have won comfortably at times, it has been a hell of a lot of hard work and there are some very tired bodies in the changing room at the moment.
“It’s been out of this world - things have gone my way, but all the lads, not just the ones that have played, and the support staff have just been fantastic.
“My English isn’t good enough to find adjectives to describe how I am feeling.”
Having emerged victorious in the second Test at Adelaide after outplaying the hosts for much of the drawn series opener, England suffered a shock defeat in Perth as the sides entered the final two Tests on level terms.
But that did not affect the tourists and, after bowling Australia out for just 98 on the first day at Melbourne, they reclaimed the initiative.
There was no further let-up thereafter - something Cook feels was pivotal to their success.
“When you win well once, it helps,” he said. “Obviously we had a blip in Perth but to come back in Melbourne and get ahead of the game - obviously we never let them off the hook from that.
“We can be very good when our confidence goes up - as Strauss said in the press conference, he felt this was the most confident performance he has seen from an England team.”
Like the rest of England’s heroes, Cook is not one to bask in the glory for too long and he stressed the importance of moving on, both individually and as a team.
“Hopefully I have gone up another level and there is more to come - one of our main targets as a team is to keep on improving,” he added.
“As a player, I would like the same - whether I can score this amount of runs in an Ashes series again, who knows? I would like to have a crack at it, though!”
Despite the nature of the series and the landmarks achieved - both personal and otherwise - Cook did not have difficulty pinpointing a stand-out moment.
“The final wicket today," he immediately revealed.
“Obviously Melbourne, when we knew we had retained the Ashes, was great but after that initial half hour of feeling amazing, we thought ‘we don’t want to end in Sydney with a bad performance’.”
They need not have worried.