Cook honoured despite defeat
Alastair Cook was a proud man after leading England for the first time today, but conceded that he could not have been given a tougher induction to international captaincy after suffering at the hands of a ruthless South Africa.
The opening batsman, thrust into the role after regular Twenty20 skipper Paul Collingwood was ruled out this morning due to a stiff back, saw his side thumped by 84 runs at Centurion.
It came after a Twenty20 international record 170-run opening partnership between Loots Bosman and Graeme Smith, who flayed 94 and 88 respectively, helped the Proteas reach 241 for six – the second highest total in this form of the game.
England, in reply, were always behind the game, finishing on 157 for eight thanks largely to a half-century from Jonathan Trott.
Despite the loss, which saw the series end 1-1, Cook was pleased with the personal honour.
“I don’t think it comes much tougher than that, so credit to how Smith and Bosman played at the top of the order,” he said. “Everything we tried didn’t really work and they punished us.
“It’s tough. I was trying to keep the emotions as calm as you can. You try everything to keep calm, but it was hard.
“Everyone was busting their gut to try and bowl to the plan, but the margins were quite small today and our skills were probably not good enough to deal with it.”
Asked when he found out he would be captain, he replied: “This morning. Obviously we knew last night it was touch and go with Colly. Unfortunately he didn’t make it.
“Whatever happened today, I actually enjoyed it. I’ll go to bed very disappointed with the result, but I tried my best and I captained my country today for the first time.”
Apart from Trott’s 51, there was also another major positive for England with the return of Kevin Pietersen, who took the place of Collingwood.
It was the first action for England’s star batsman since the second Ashes Test in July, after which he underwent surgery on his troublesome right Achilles.
Pietersen was scheduled to return in a one-day warm-up game on Tuesday, but due to the shortage of batsmen in the squad and regular captain Andrew Strauss’ decision to no longer play the shortest form of the game, it meant a sooner than expected comeback.
Cook said there was no doubt Pietersen he was fit to return, adding: “He’s made some great progress over the last few days, in the last week after coming over here.
“Ideally, he probably would have had another match and more match practice. Since the Ashes Test match he hasn’t batted, but with Colly going out he had to come in.
“He’s 100% fully fit; the only thing was the match practice. He would have liked a knock in the middle before, but it wasn’t to be.
“He’s been itching to get back since that second Test match. He’s had a real tough problem with his Achilles, which he has thankfully got over.
“He was desperate himself. Straussy, he said himself he doesn’t want to be part of the Twenty20 plans, so there was no question of him coming back in.”
South Africa coach Mickey Arthur was pleased with a thoroughly convincing performance, especially after the one-run Duckworth-Lewis defeat in the first game on Friday.
He said: “We were very frustrated the other night. We were really keen to make amends today and it’s really satisfying.”
Arthur also felt his side would take more from the two Twenty20 encounters, ahead of the five-match one-day series, despite honours ending even.
He added: “I think the emphatic way in which we won, we come out of the weekend far better than England have. That’s if it does count for anything down the line because we go into a different format.
“But we probably do take a little more from it. We’re probably a little more settled and a little more unpredictable.”