Tag Archives: alastair cook

Cook applauded for making it to lunch

The umpire called time and the crowd rose. They clapped. Almost every single one of them. The applause was jarring on a morning of closed-faced bunts and turgid run accumulation. Gary Ballance was out there, but no one was applauding him. It was all for Alastair Cook. He had survived until lunch. One whole session and the crowd rose to congratulate a man with 25 Test centuries and over 8000 Test runs because he didn’t get out.

It was un-ironic and spontaneous, they clapped not because Cook hadn’t been good, but more specifically because he wasn’t bad.

The crowd gave a collective “ugh” noise as the very first ball took his edge and went towards slip. This pitch and Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s pace meant that it travelled slowly but the potential car-crash nature of a Cook first-ball duck slowed it down to a an excruciating degree. Cook’s career was wobbling behind him. Most of the crowd were still yet to put their bags on the ground. Billy the Trumpet had not even finished wetting his lips. And had the ball carried all the way to second slip, Cook would have been gone. Gone.

The crowd didn’t applaud the edge falling short, but they all started breathing again as it did.

It didn’t get better. A ball hit the face of Cook’s bat and it turned his bat around. He played an off-side shot with the bat on an angle that would turn the stomach of many batsmen. His thigh pad was hit. Cook protects his thigh pad like it proves the existence of God when he is in form. This was not Cook in form. This was a wet-blanketed edgy bloke who missed balls on his pads.

Pankaj Singh came around the wicket to deliver a ball angling in, short of a length, and moving away. Cook edged it. Ravindra Jadeja dropped it.

Cook was working on everything. His guard had moved back to leg, from the middle at Lord’s. His feet were more open. And he was holding his bat in such a way he was physically forcing himself to play straight. Had he superglued his hands on to the bat, he could not have emphasised that he was trying to overcome his flaw. Even his backing up at the non-striker’s end was forced. Instead of a gentle walk in with bowler, or even an eager jog, he had adopted a near jump-and-pounce premeditated manoeuvre that left him in a cat-like pose waiting for the single. This was a man who had thought more about his game in the last week than people talk about tragedies on Twitter.

A normal defensive shot ended up looking like the bat and ball are determined to not meet. A juicy half volley was punished with a feather. Even his pull shots weren’t Cook pull shots, they were polite cross-bat paddles followed by a jog to the other end, happy enough to get off strike for another ball.

Finally there was a ball slow and terrible enough for Cook to bring out the true force of his family and smack it. It was short and disgusting, but as it flew through point the crowd cheered as if Cook had beheaded a wyvern. Sure, most of the crowd could have hit it for four, but Cook did it, their Cooky, they want him to succeed.

The celebration didn’t last long, his back foot inventing a new dance move as he played and missed. “The Cooky” may never catch on. A slash through gully put hands on heads of Indians and provided sharp intakes of breaths all around the bowl. A really, really, really slow short one from Rohit Sharma virtually hit itself for four and then applauded the shot as Cook watched on.

India dropped Cook, but they also helped by bowling as inconsistently as they could to him. They tried to bowl short, because they clearly didn’t see the viral video of how often he is dismissed from full balls. They were too wide. They were too straight. The impeccable groupings from Lord’s were replaced by single dots that seem to be following no real plan.

Cook wasn’t forced to play straight, so he didn’t. His traditional V of just behind and just in front of square leg reemerged. He didn’t charge down to reverse sweep a bouncer. He started hitting the balls on his hip, he hustled between the wickets , he bunted balls out to point and stole singles, he cashed in on short balls outside off stump, and he ignored the zone straight down the ground.

If batting could be compared to the good looks of Hollywood’s leading men, this was the Tor Johnson. It bumped into scenery, mumbled incomprehensibly and made you feel awkward for much of the time you were watching it. But it was an innings. An actual innings. One that they didn’t even seem to mind finishing five runs too soon.

The final ball. The seven-two leg field. The short filthy delivery down the leg side. The batsman trying to hit the ball a bit too hard. An umpire readjusting his trousers. Alastair Cook dismissed for 95. The crowd stood and applauded.

They stood and applauded him for getting to lunch. They stood and applauded him for getting to fifty. They stood and applauded him for getting to 95. They stood and applauded as he left the pitch, walked up the stairs, and then up the other stairs, and then as he finally disappeared into the dressing room. They stood and applauded him for simply not failing. They like him.

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When 3.33 beat 8130: Cook and Shami

A young boy gets on a motorbike for the first time. The instructions are given to him. He looks on quietly. People expect him to struggle. Instead he takes to it fairly well. Muddy dirt tracks are handled with ease. He jumps off little ramps and holds on. He mostly works out the brakes and how to turn and tries, but fails, to pull off a wheelie. Eventually he stops, and the next boy gets on. A boy who has ridden a motorbike for years: yet he makes a simple mistake and rides straight into a BBQ.

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Alastair Cook’s first ball catches him by surprise. He has more Test hundreds than any other England batsman but he reacts late to the movement into him and an inside edge ends up at backward square leg. It is not a stunning show of confidence as he wanders to the other end confused.

Mohammed Shami’s first ball is a length ball, India’s No. 11 rocked forward and defends with the sort of certainty a man with a Test Average of 3.33 really shouldn’t have. He’s not overawed by his first moment in England. He’s not overawed by facing Stuart Broad. He’s not even overawed by the sudden collapse that has led to him being in. He’s just playing a forward defensive shot.

Cook handles the next few balls fine. A yorker is dug out. He pushes to the legside looking for runs. He is handling the pitch with no demons like it’s a pitch with no demons. The ball is not swinging or seaming.

Shami also handles his first few balls well. They bowl short, and he defends well and misses when trying to attack. He cracks one to point. And turns a ball into the leg side to get off the mark.

Shami’s first boundary is a heave over the legside against a confused James Anderson. Shami is full of confidence having survived for a while and is now flexing a bit of muscle. He also whips a ball off his pads so well that he beats a man in the deep. He smacks Moeen Ali long and deep with a dance down the pitch. He cracks a short ball to the point boundary and no fielders move. And then to finally get to his 50 he hits a Test bowler with 358 Test wickets over the sightscreen.

Cook gets a ball on his hip and turns it to the rope.

Shami’s innings is not all grace and beauty. He tries to upper cut one to third man. He mistimes one so badly he can’t even find a fielder. Almost loses his off stump. Almost loses his toe. And is actually caught behind, despite the fact England didn’t hear it. It was a quality innings for a No. 11, but not a quality innings.

Cook’s innings isn’t quality.

Cook faces nine of his ten balls from Shami, including the last one. Getting bowled around your legs can look unlucky. Bowlers don’t plan for it very often. And even when they do, it rarely works. This is the sort of ball that Cook could have literally flicked to the leg side with a blindfold on, handcuffed upside down in a tank of water. Now his head leads away from the ball, his body tumbles after it.

Cook has never been pretty, but now he’s ungainly and needlessly mobile. He can’t stand up properly and exposes the leg stump. The ball flicks his pads and instead of rolling away safely for a leg bye it slams into legs tump. Cook has lost his way so much he can almost see the ball hitting the stumps.

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Mohammed Shami had made a 50 before today, for Bengal U-22s four years ago. Alastair Cook has made 35 fifties at Test Level. Not forgetting 19 fifties in ODIs. There are also a few hundreds. And he once made 294. But Cook hasn’t scored more than 51 in his last five Tests.

Today the bunny with no batting pedigree scored more runs than the man with 8,130 runs.

Today two men batted: one with little expectation or hope, the other with fear and uncertainty. One made an unbeaten. The other hit the BBQ.

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england’s new errors

Alastair Cook did a slow depressing jog from the ground. His team had taken the final Sri Lanka wicket of the series.

England were scattered across the ground in various positions. All looking exhausted and frustrated. They slowly left the ground to a small applause. An automatic applause, like saying sorry to someone who has bumped into you on the street.

Cook had already left the ground before his team; he had a trudging jog off to prepare for the chase. There was no applause as he left.

“Oh you pretty sweet red little baby, I love the way you smell and swing. I cannot wait for you to help me. You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for you.”

England couldn’t have shown any less regard for the old ball had they all stopped to spit on it. They might as well have offered Sri Lanka 40 runs off the first seven overs of the day as a deal to move the game on. Offering players like Mahela Jayawardene and Angelo Mathews a warm up is never, ever, ever a good idea. As Sri Lanka started to hit the ball wherever they wanted, England looked more feeble and completely idiotic.

And despite all this rush to the new ball, Moeen Ali only received one of England’s throwaway overs. The last one. It was the only over he would bowl in the first 167 minutes of play.

Then they got that most fetishised of items, the second new ball. But instead of just bowling short or wide with the new ball, as they did on Sunday, they combined the two. If cricket had a dictionary, this bowling was its definition of awful. James Anderson looked tired, injured, grumpy and was clearly upset with the footmarks. After much short wideness, Anderson recalibrated and bowled full down the leg side. Stuart Broad’s short and wide almost worked. A poor ball, received a poor shot, before a poor effort from Ian Bell dropped it.

By this stage in the innings, England’s beehive is so erratic you can’t even see the little shadowy batsmen behind it. Their pitch mat looks like someone dropped a plate of food. And then vomited on it.

Then England found a slight ray of sunshine. Anderson got Jayawardene. Liam Plunkett took two more and got himself on a hat-trick. Sri Lanka’s terribly feeble, virtually useless tail was right there, right for England to bite the head off of. Even during this glorious time when wickets fell magically around them, England still used a review for an lbw no human being has been drunk enough to ever give out. But Sri Lanka are seven wickets down, less than 200 ahead. This is England’s time.

The hat-trick ball attempt could have been one where Cook showed Mathews he wasn’t that worried about him, that he felt England had got their swag back. That they were ready to get back on top. He could have brought the field in, even a few catchers, and then kept them in the ring just to change the game a bit on Mathews after three quick wickets. Instead the field had many sweepers. Virtually no catchers. If he was unlucky enough to be caught on the hat-trick ball, it was likely to be at wide long-on.

Strangely he was not caught that way.

England then played every old cricketer’s favourite game of hoping they can dismiss the tailender by stealing a couple of balls at him in between the batsman hitting them for boundaries. It’s hard at the best of times, and harder when Angelo Mathews is batting like the world has been waiting for him and three of your seamers have abandoned line and length.

England went after it with their last bit of energy, Mathews smacked the ball back over their head and laughed at them.

By this point, Sri Lanka’s No. 9 Rangana Herath felt so comfortable he pulled out the back-foot cover drive. Which against an international bowler is like leading with your right. Instead he scoops it up in the air. Broad looks up, moves the wrong way, then moves slowly the right way, and then chases it like a dog who wouldn’t know what do to with it if he got it.

Mathews dominated them so much, they were lucky if they got to start an over against Herath early on. Chris Jordan had one. Jordan started with a shin-high full toss. Herath pushed it through covers and even gave himself enough time to run three. So then England decided to try a 7-2 off-side field to keep Mathews on strike. Jordan fired one down the leg side with no one behind square. Had England hit the boundary for Mathews, they could not have been any more accommodating. They did manage to keep Mathews on strike at the end of the over – he missed a knee-high full toss off the last ball. This was a horribly painful over for England fans, but it wasn’t much worse than any of the others.

England fluttered away another review on a ball that hit Herath on the groin. When Mathews finally got to 99, England didn’t seem to notice. Cook didn’t bring in the sweepers. Sure, Mathews would have got his hundred anyway. He may have got it if England had asked the 300 members of the crowd to come out. So, why delay the inevitable.

Broad tried an over of around the wicket, intentionally-down-the-leg-side bowling with Matt Prior standing at a fine leg slip. He is wided straight away. Anderson tries the opposite, an over of as wide as he can outside off stump. He’s wided as well. And then no one thinks to put out a third man, so Mathews flashes it exactly there. England have now even run out of stupid ideas. And that stage, England’s most sensible decision would have been letting Sri Lanka bat on too long to force a result.

Herath swept on to the back of his pad flap, it bounced up beautifully for Prior to take a quick-thinking catch. Prior saw it. Prior made the ground. Prior dropped the catch. Prior’s face is in the dirt. A visual representation of his keeping over the last few Tests.

England are saved the embarrassment of Herath’s fifty only by Mathews running him out. They finally take Mathews with a knee-high full toss. He had clearly used up all his awesome. Shaminda Eranga slaps England around, which at this stage is basically cricket abuse.

England need 350 runs with 10 wickets in hand.

Gary Ballance misses the quick skiddy one. Sam Robson nicks off chasing on the up. Ian Bell misses the one that nipped back. But then comes in the nightwatchman.

In cricket’s most rubbish position is Plunkett. While he may be a massive presence out on the ground, it doesn’t intimidate much as nightwatchman. There is a bit of King Kong about him, Sri Lanka are buzzing loudly and firing often. Plunkett’s been forced to climb the building only to get to the top and realise it’s pointless and is now clinging to the building rather uselessly. Then, instead of being brought down by enemy fire after safely putting Alastair Cook down carefully, Plunkett just jumped off the building taking Cook with him. One last mistake, falling to earth with the most pathetic of drives, confused and upset.

England need 293 runs with 5 wickets in hand.

England are 39 for 0.

Dhammika Prasad is bowling his skiddy medium fast stuff from over the wicket. He drops one short on off stump. To the left-hander it is going well outside off stump. The batsman decides to pull. The ball doesn’t get up as he would like. It takes the under edge and ducks back into the stumps.

Alastair Cook rocks his head back. Looks at the screen on as he leaves the field on his own. There is no applause again.

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Plunkett: not the orgasm Cook thought he was getting

Alastair Cook spent most of the time in the second Ashes watching Michael Clarke’s never ending orgasm of delight. And at the end, as you might do in a rom-com set in Katz’s Deli, he asked for what Clarke was having. He wanted a Mitchell Johnson.

Sport teams have quite a clear history in being beaten by a style or tactic, and then trying to replicate it themselves. It is how sport works. It is how music works. It is how movies works. It is how life works. This idea works. Let’s do this idea.

So there was no real surprise that England would pick the closest thing to Mitchell Johnson they could find. Liam Plunkett. That is what we were told before Lord’s. He was fast, he had been trained in the secret ways of Australian fast bowlers by Jason Gillespie. Andrew Gale had even used him like Johnson. And when he hit the pitch it was usually very short, with a field set for carnage.

But it did not really work. The pitch did not suit it. And Liam Plunkett also did not suit it.

His two wickets were when he bowled full. When he just continued punching the middle of the pitch he just bloodied his knuckles for no good reason. His pitch maps looked like he was trying to paint a stripe across the middle of the wicket. It was fast and accurate, but it was largely fruitless. They had picked a fast bowler, but by insisting he bowled huge long spells of short bowling they had turned him into a confused shire horse.

Three overs from the end of the Lord’s Test, with Sri Lanka eight down, Plunkett was bowled ahead of Stuart Broad. When the ball was given back to Broad for the last over, it was because Plunkett had not looked like taking a wicket, and could not be trusted by Cook to deliver.

Today he could not stop delivering. His full swinging ball to Dimuth Karunaratne would have made the England coaching staff fill notebooks with joy. He was fast and full again to Mahela Jayawardene. Then followed it up with the short ball that Lahiru Thirimanne seemed shocked to see. And then followed it up with some good old fashioned bombing of the tail.

But there was also a full ball to Kumar Sangakkara that was probably caught behind, and no one appealed, reviewed or even really seemed to notice from England. A short-of-a-length ball that took off from the pitch, took the edge and then wedged itself into Prior’s ribcage. And the short ball that Jayawardene hooked to a shocked leg slip.

By bowling his short ball less, Plunkett got more out of it. This pitch is not the WACA, or even Old Trafford, but Plunkett looked far quicker and scarier than the others, no matter his length. In using the short ball as an exclamation mark, instead of a comma, he made more of an impact. Plunkett outbowled them.

Plunkett has spent this time in the wilderness well. He has used it to become a beast of a man; he looks more light heavyweight than fast bowler. If the team bus ever breaks down, they would be fine getting Plunkett to drag it around town. This is essentially the same action he had when he was a whispy kid with a Test bowling average of 40 and hope in his heart. He has made it higher and stronger. On his own. Away from David Saker and the England machine.

Other than Plunkett’s determination and hard work, it is the county system that England has often ignored of recent times that virtually put Plunkett back together again. Yorkshire, Gale and Gillespie found a fast bowler in 2012 that was not being used by his county and within a few months at their club they had him playing England Lions, and by the first Test of the following summer he was in the team.

Yorkshire might just have given England an old player their new era needs.

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Clarke and Cook: Glamorous white stallions and dour sheep

Alastair Cook tweeting about his surprise wedding and putting up a picture of him leading his new bride on a white stallion would seem odd. As would a picture of Michael Clarke dressed in military fatigues or with a dead deer at his feet. Cook isn’t about to make much of his body a canvas or become an underwear model. Clarke isn’t likely to wear gumboots and tend to his livestock before dawn. Clarke and Cook are two very different human beings.

A Google image search of Michael Clarke will come back with a man who has posed for as many cameras as any wannabe starlet. Red carpets, underwear shots, shoots for GQ, he has done them all. If you’re an Australian cricket fan under 20, you could be forgiven for thinking Michael Clarke has spent your entire life staring back at you in a sultry way or with a painted on smile.

Cook’s image search is mostly made up on him looking stern or pensive. Generally on the field, or at a press conference. There are very few shots of him doing anything fun (painting nude girls and holding up a cricket bat in a naked shoot are the exceptions, not the rule). On the occasion he does pose, you often get a look at his hypnotising eyes, eyes that seem to trap you, and which would be better used by a dystopian dictator looking to instill fear into the population.

Clarke’s image and game has been sharpened and pushed by a series of well-meaning people. Some who have made much money and great reputations from a stylish batsman. Like many working-class kids who find money and fame early on, he made the most of it. He bought showy cars, lived in the flashy part of town, ate at the cafes where the paparazzi hung out, and dated a C-grade celebrity.

Slowly he grew out of that. At its worst, his hometown paper called him a tosser, he felt the need to tweet an apology for not walking, and he was booed at the SCG in his first Test as captain.

Cook’s life has always been a bit more straightforward. He went to Bedford, a school with Nobel Laureates, Olympians and the school attended by Sir George Arthur Harwin Branson, Richard Branson’s grandfather. He was a chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral School. Two-and-a half years into his international career he had his first book out. In it he tried hard to distance himself from his middle class background, but a few paragraphs later talked of how his family often skied.

He is barely seen off the cricket field, isn’t the face of many products and almost unbelievably for a professional sportsman of his age, isn’t on twitter. Cook left his wedding in a tractor.

The off-field images of them are also pretty accurate of the way they play.

Cook looks after himself, does what he has to do, isn’t always stylish or pretty, but is damn effective. Leads from the front at No. 1. Takes few chances. It has been written that if he had to, Alastair Cook would give birth. It wouldn’t be pretty, but he would get it done. Robotic and efficient, at his best he makes massive scores without a bead of sweat. The sort of leader his country has always respected.

Clarke is stylish on and off the field (I’m sure that line has been used in the thousands of lifestyle pieces on him). When he started he was brash and aggressive, now he is smooth and reliable. Bats down the order, in part, to shield himself from the swinging ball. Willing to gamble, but never as much as people say. A nervous starter with pretty feet who once set, especially in his home country, is almost impossible to dislodge. A new leader for a changing country.

But Cook and Clarke have had amazingly similar cricket careers. They even both married women they knew before they could realistically be presumed to be future Test captains.

Clarke started in Bangalore with a blazing hundred. Baggy green on his head, he was the symbol for Australia winning their final frontier in India. Cook started in Nagpur, holding England’s top order together with a half century in the first innings. Then making a hundred in the second dig to push the game beyond India’s reach.

Both had major obstacles to overcome once they had been in the side for a few years. Cook’s technique had never been textbook, but with a stagnating career average (it was roughly 42 for 30 Tests), and a sudden angled bat that kept nicking off, Cook had to do something just to get on the tour to Australia in 10/11. In the second innings of a game Pakistan were dominating, Cook made 110. Two Tests later he would play Australia at the Gabba.

Clarke was the golden boy of Australian cricket. He had won in India. Taken on the English bowlers. And seemed indestructible. But he got trapped in a vicious cycle as the boy who didn’t want to be dropped. The worse his form got, the more the press talked about this once in a generation boy not being the missing link. It seemed like he could think of little else. Eventually he was dropped. But thanks to a gift that has happened to many Australian batsmen (a Shane Watson injury) Clarke was brought back, cleaned up his game, kept the ball on the ground and made lots of runs.

They both know what it’s like to play in one of their countries’ most successful teams. Clarke came into the team in 2004, has won a World Cup, and enjoyed everything that goes with being the number one Test team in the world. Cook was a major part of England becoming number one, and producing a new, if albeit brief, golden era for English cricket.

Both were also the apprentices for the top job well before they got it. Despite much psychological testing, a thorough interview process and England’s endeavour to do things by the book, Alastair Cook was only not getting the job if he shot Giles Clarke in a hunting accident.

In the modern era no new Australian captain has been as hated as Michael Clarke was. Yet, there simply was not another option when Ricky Ponting stepped down. Strauss and Cook would appear far more similar than Ponting and Clarke, but the “break your arm” comment would suggest that both men learn from their seniors.

As captains, both men have averaged more than their career average. Cook even managing to do so without the very constant daddy hundreds he made under Strauss. His overall average should still be higher, but despite this he will retire England’s highest-ever scoring Test batsman, unless a giant anvil lands on him within the next two years. Clarke is averaging a staggering 63 as captain despite the fact he took over after one of the worst summers of his career. In the summer of 2010/11 Clarke averaged 17 in seven Tests. Suddenly being called a tosser and booed wasn’t his biggest problem.

They both changed their careers, and public perceptions, with Everest runs. Before Cook’s innings at the Gabba last Ashes, he was seen as a one-dimensional plodder who could score handy runs but wasn’t a game or series changer. That one innings, followed up with Adelaide, changed how everyone saw him. In two series against India he did it again. And suddenly the plodder became a batting monolith.

Clarke had taken over as full-time captain for tours to Sri Lanka and South Africa. As is often the way, Australian tours, Ashes aside, are not really poured over the same way. Instead of 20 to 40 press in the box, it’s two to four. Instead of free to air, it’s cable. So, even though Clarke played one of his greatest innings in South Africa and drew an away series with a heavyweight, few noticed.

They did notice when Australia managed only to draw a home series against New Zealand. So in his next series, against a rapidly declining India, he had to win, and win grand. The winning took care of itself when at Sydney he changed his public perception (probably forever) with a triple century whilst wearing the baggy green. Tosser pretty boy was gone; true Australian hero was born.

As captains, both men lead much as they play. Clarke is attacking and stylish, yet still flawed. He’s not the tactical genius he gets credit for, nor the terrible man manager everyone assumed. He has survived two coaches being sacked, stood down from his selectorial duties and is currently running a team much in his own image. Not for the first time Australian cricket looks like it could be getting something right, but it’s fallen hard on its face in recent times after good series. Whether they are playing well or not, Australia still seems one massive collapse from a disaster, something Clarke’s batting will try to hold together.

Cook’s captaincy is well thought out, predictable and safe. He took over a machine that had just started to show some wear and tear. Strauss, Hugh Morris and Geoff Miller are all gone or going, Andy Flower is the only one who remains from England’s amazing two years. When Cook took over, he fixed the broken Pietersen situation, defeated India from behind and then won the Ashes. He was on a roll.

Now his team has run into Mitchell Johnson, every flaw they had has been opened up. His team currently look a bit like him, out of answers, and unable to capture the magic they had previously. But they are still the team that made it to number one, with most of the original playing parts still here. Cook and his team can still turn this around.

Somehow these two men with similar cricket histories and vastly different personalities have ended up playing their 100th Tests together. Thanks to Mitchell Johnson, the news is not really about them. And with Sachin clocking up 200, and many other players passing 150, 100 Tests is no longer the number played by the only the iron men of cricket. Clarke has brought his up in under 10 years, Cook in under eight.

You could argue who is greater and who has achieved more, but such conversations are mostly useless and should be kept in bars or 2am twitter fights where they belong. They’re both pretty damn good. And they both have interesting futures as leaders.

Clarke will hope this isn’t a fluke and Australia is finally back. Cook will be trying to work out what has caused this decline, and what to do next.

Before this series Clarke had the Ashes loss and Ricky Ponting’s book to contend with. People had openly started questioning whether he was the right man to lead Australia forward. Mike Hussey’s book brought back the Clarke/Katich rift, and even the Hussey/Clarke rift, even if in both cases Hussey was trying to be nice. Alastair Cook just tended to his sheep and gave the occasional positive press conference.

There are still many photos to be taken of them in their careers, or even in this series. Clarke’s current twitter avatar is one of him looking disappointed in the rain of Old Trafford. The promotional photos for the Ashes before the series have Cook with an easy smile on his face, next to a stern Michael Clarke. Right now, those photos could be reversed.

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Smashing Alastair Cook with a large space rock

Alastair Cook seems like a nice guy.

OK the hunting and working class things are a bit odd, but I doubt he abuses small children or throws faeces at monkeys.

And I respect the fact that even though he has a fairly flawed technique he makes more runs than most whilst never sweating.

It’s just that I’ve seen it.

A lot.

I’ve dreamt of him, fantasized about him being a reptilian, and seen more hours of him batting that I’ve seen Robocop 2, the Matrix, Predator and the 1985 Perry Mason Godzilla combined.

During the Ashes I thought it was because he was taking down my team, but no, it’s not that, it’s just Cook, he burrows into my skin and gently nudges away at my life force for days on end.

It’s enough already with the fucken Alastair Cook.

Had I attacked a woman on the bus because I hated her hat, I’d probably get less hours of community service than one Cook innings.

They just go on and on, they never change, there is no difference, it’s just the subtle strangulation of accumulation and death.

If Cook was a dictator, he wouldn’t put his face on anything, or declare wednesday to be Alastairday, people would just start disappearing when they said anything that wasn’t polite or Pro Cook.

That is why right now I want an Asteroid to come down to earth and smash into Cook as he turns it on the legside for one.

I can take no more, and if the only way to stop Cook is with this fiery space rock from hell, and I have to go with it, then fuck it, kill me, kill him, but make this stop.

Oh please make this stop.

Sometimes the only option is a large crushing force from above.

Please space rock, save me, save us all.

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balls profile: Alastair Cook

No cricketer has ever worn more eye shadow while fishing at edges and opening the batting for England than Alastair Cook. Should really be called mini-Strauss, as he is very similar to Strauss, but sort of less. Has major technical flaws, never really puts his stamp on good attacks, and looks like he is confused as to what is happening around him. Luckily, he also has amazing patience, zen patience. The sort of guy who will stay outside in a queue for a cool night club for hours knowing that when he gets in it will be fun, even if he will only drink diet lemonade when inside. As explained in his Britneyesque autobiography, he is the most working class person from Essex to ever regularly go skiing. His brother is a top bloke.

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Alastair Cook will captain England in common sense’s absence

Alastair Cook has been named as England’s Test captain for their tour of Bangladesh in February and March, after the selectors opted to stop thinking.

National Selector Geoff Miller said: “Andrew Strauss has provided outstanding leadership for the team in both forms of the game over the past 12 months and the selectors feel it is important that the team knows what it is like to have rubbish leadership and we are extremely confident that Alastair Cook can provide this.

Strauss is the only frontline Test batsman to miss the trip. “We still want to win, we just don’t think we need good leadership to do that,” said Miller.

“Our decision to appoint Alastair Cook to the Test vice-captaincy last year was completely random, clearly we had no idea then, and now we have demonstrated consistency with our decisions. We have no idea what we will do next.  We’re crazy.”

“Cook’s played over 50 Tests now,” added Miller, “surely that, plus the fact he went to public school, can talk good, is a batsman, and is not from the north is more than enough reason to make him captain. Although we want to make it clear, we had no such reason when we made the decision, but we thought we better backward engineer one.  Darren Pattinson was also considered.”

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Cook becomes Gooch, but shitter

Graham Gooch has done everything in his power to give little Essex star Alastair Cook his batting mojo.

He hasn’t asked him to get fat or put on a hilarious moustache, but he has got him standing taller, getting his twitchy footwork done earlier and playing straighter.

For all that training Cook’s front foot is still in the air as the bowler lets go, he still wafts with a slanted bat at wide ones, and plays at ball he doesn’t have to.

Today he nicked one that was dropped, then nicked another one and buggered off.

I think Gooch was a terrific player, and for all i know he could be the Vince Lombardi of batting coaches, but something isn’t right here.

Is turning Cook into a bastardised version of himself really going to help?

In no way is Cook’s normal batting anything like Gooch’s, so why shape him that way.

Surely there is a way to change his technique without moulding it onto one that is the polar opposite.

It reminds me of the whole Cameron White coaching fiasco, where Terry Jenner tried to make him more Shane Warne like and now he bowls like Shane Warne would if he had Polio.

Cook is a back foot player, one who takes half a step forward, who nudges off his hip alot and plays the pull shot well. Plus, you know, left handed.

Other than Michael Slater I can’t think of many players from the last generation less like Cook than Gooch.

In other news, South Africa batted today, I can tell because I woke up on the couch.

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hussey and cook

I was struck yesterday by the fact that captaining a cricket side is less important than wicketkeeping, so I did something for TWC.

And I thought it was about time that someone got a little ranty on cricinfo about the king probot mike hussey.

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