Kieswetter impressed by Cook
Craig Kieswetter almost had to double-check Alastair Cook’s identity during their record stand at Trent Bridge - to make sure the man at the other end was not Marcus Trescothick in disguise.
Cook’s strike rate of almost 127 in his unbeaten 95, as England levelled the NatWest Series at 2-2, made a mockery of pundits who had questioned his ability to adapt his batting to the requirements of one-day international cricket.
Kieswetter, billed as England’s pinch-hitter, quickly realised he need do nothing of the sort.
Instead, he mostly looked on as Cook crashed 16 fours from 75 balls to dominate England’s race past a modest target of 171 in under half the 48 overs at their disposal to set up a series decider at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Kieswetter belatedly stirred himself to some late hitting and finished with 72 not out in England’s 10-wicket victory.
England’s limited-overs wicketkeeper-batsman has forged his career in the shadow of Trescothick at Somerset, where the former Test and ODI opener has continued - since having to retire from international cricket - to dismantle county attacks in all formats.
Asked about similarities between Trescothick and Cook, in his present form, Kieswetter said of the latter: “He certainly hits the ball as hard as he does, and is just as calm in the middle.”
England’s opening pair completed their work, with Cook just short of a second ODI hundred in four days - after his more obdurate innings in defeat at Lord’s.
It did not take long for Kieswetter to understand he would be able to leave the big shots to his captain this time.
“From his first ball that he crunched through mid-off for four, I thought ‘here we go, I’m going to have to play second fiddle and give him the strike’,” he said.
“The way he is hitting the ball is fantastic. The sound it makes coming off his bat is like a gun shot, so I am more than happy to keep flicking it down to third-man and fine-leg to give him the strike.
“He is hitting the ball cleaner than I have ever seen.”
Cook’s embryonic ODI captaincy has begun with a chorus of doubts about whether, despite his impeccable Test form of the past 12 months, he has it in him to score quickly enough in the 50-over game.
Kieswetter said: “He is performing exceptionally well but he understands he needs to put a long run in to get rid of the critics.
“It is not about proving critics wrong; it is about trying to help England win games of cricket, and the management and players have massively bought into this ethos and drive for what is best for English cricket.
“We lost a couple of games, but to bounce back like we did shows a selflessness from everyone in the team.”
The new opening pair posted their first century stand together, at the seventh time of asking at Trent Bridge.
“We’ve got a good understanding. Things normally take a while to build up, but we seem to be quite nicely getting on,” said Kieswetter.
“Cooky has helped me get going a few times, and I have done the same to him as well.
“It is good to understand how the other one works in the middle and also where each other’s boundary options and single options are.
“That helps you push ones into twos to steal another five or 10 runs in the powerplay.”