Cook contemplated stepping aside
Alastair Cook considered dropping himself from England’s line-up but went on to prove his worth beyond doubt - even in a match reduced to almost Twenty20 proportions.
Captain Cook’s unbeaten 80 at the top of the order, from only 63 balls, steered England past what seemed a taxing target of 187 for eight with five balls and seven wickets to spare over India at the Rose Bowl.
They are therefore 1-0 up, with three NatWest Series matches to play, after their sixth successive victory in all completed contests against the tourists this summer.
Cook shared a brutal opening stand of 67 in 6.2 overs with Craig Kieswetter, then easily kept up the tempo on a very good batting surface under lights.
But when it became clear this one-day international would be reduced to only 23 overs per side, Cook - absent from England’s team in the shortest format for almost two years - did give at least some passing thought to stepping aside, saying: “That was mentioned in our dressing room.”
“We talked about it. But when we’re in a one-day competition you’re not allowed to bring new players in for Twenty20. You have to adapt, so I captained.”
Cook, whose 50-over credentials were even questioned when he was first named captain at the start of this summer, silenced those critics with a blazing tempo against Sri Lanka - and he was at it again here.
“It shows all the work I’m doing is the right work,” he said. “There’s still a huge amount I can improve on and stay on that upward curve. I’m just desperate to keep improving, so I can do that more often in the one-day side.”
Cook reserved praise for others instead - including Kieswetter, and the groundstaff for the pitch they produced.
“It was a bit frantic (in the field), but we restricted them to a total we could get. It was a decent score, but we thought it was a par score if we played well.
“Craig played brilliantly at the top of the order and left us just having to milk it to get there. That was the best wicket I’ve batted on for a long time.
“The bowlers said after a couple of overs that it wasn’t doing anything, and it was skidding onto the bat quite nicely under the lights.”
He was also grateful for the contributions of fit-again Graeme Swann and Ravi Bopara, who deputised for the injured Eoin Morgan and made a bright 24 from 20 balls.
“It gives Ravi a great chance,” he said. “We’ve got a really good squad, and it’s up to them to try to nail down a place.”
On Swann, who picked up 3-33 from five overs, he added: “He’s number one in the world - and on a non-turning wicket, especially with a wet ball, to take the wickets he did was an outstanding effort.”
Cook’s opposite number, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, said: “It was a tough day. We batted well to put 180-plus on the board. But the first powerplay was crucial - they got 60-odd runs and 100 from 10 overs and then they didn’t need to take any risks.
“We have been able to put runs on the board in the ODI series, which is a positive for us, but a bit of improvement is needed in the bowling department.
“Everybody tries their best, but almost all the bowlers went for runs.”
Changes seem unlikely, though, with Dhoni admitting: “We only have specialist bowlers left, which would mean going a batter light, and that is not something we are comfortable with - we need the extra batsman because most of our batsmen play aggressive cricket.
“We try to come up with plans that may work, but not much has worked so far for us.”