Cook forces tweak in thinking

Posted in England in India 2012-13

When you think of the great players of spin, sights of Sachin Tendulkar trotting down the pitch to Shane Warne come to mind, or Brian Lara driving effortlessly out of the rough.

Those two were rare breeds, batsmen that could not only survive against the best tweakers but prosper with an eye-catching approach - even in the most difficult of circumstances.

What may not come to mind usually, however, is a vision of Alastair Cook ruthlessly carrying out his pre-determined method, rarely operating outside of the limits he has defined so expertly for himself.

That is probably just how Cook likes it, for the understated manner in which he unerringly picks apart bowling attacks is indicative of the personality possessed by England's new skipper.

Even when asked who the best player of spin is in this England side, few will immediately think of Cook; the names of Kevin Pietersen or Ian Bell - both stylish operators who like to use their feet - are more likely responses.

Yet a look at the statistics tells a different story.

Prior to this series, Cook was averaging a lofty 63.75 in the sub-continent, with Pietersen possessing the next best record with a mark of 37.62.

The former's advantage increased considerably today, when the opener moved from 74 not out to 168, keeping alive England's faint hopes of rescuing an encounter that seemed destined to end in defeat midway through day three.

Wally Hammond

Alastair Cook is one ton from 22 in Tests, which would match Wally Hammond, pictured, Geoffrey Boycott and Colin Cowdrey's England record

By the close, Cook had batted 501 minutes, faced 341 deliveries and hit 20 fours; he had not cleared the rope, for it did not fit with his plan.

Remarkably, this is a man who has also previously amassed a quite astonishing 766 runs over five Tests of an Ashes tour on the bouncy tracks of Australia.

The conditions are worlds apart, yet the hallmarks of the performances have been identical: decisive footwork and unrivalled powers of concentration.

It sounds simple. Cook makes it look simple. It is not simple.

In an era when limited-overs cricket has created an increasing clamour for six-hitting innovators rather than single-clipping traditionalists, the qualities the man known as 'Chef' possesses are often under-appreciated.

One day, they will be. After all, Cook did reach Test ton number 21 today - one shy of the England record, held by Wally Hammond, Colin Cowdrey and Geoffrey Boycott.

In the process, he became the first man to strike tons in his first three five-day encounters as skipper. The previous two, by the way, also came in the sub-continent, against Bangladesh when filling in for Andrew Strauss.

At the age of 27, Cook has scored 6,764 runs at an average of 49.01 - a tally he has the opportunity to add to tomorrow.

His method may mean he is not readily thought of as quickly as Pietersen et al, yet his efforts will surely rewrite the record books and be forever remembered.

A notable landmark was reached today, another could go tomorrow; Cook is just 39 shy of England's highest score in Asia, the 207 Mike Gatting managed against India in Chennai 27 years ago.

Today in Ahmedabad, we may have watched England's greatest-ever batsman, one who prospers in all conditions.

That is a conversation for another day. For now, I'll merely suggest that Cook deserves to be considered when you think of the great players of spin.

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