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Alastair Cook: England's latest great

2nd January 2013

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Prior to his breakout Ashes series down under in 2010-11, Alastair Cook was a perennial understudy. Despite the unprecedented nature of his prolific scoring, Cook always appeared to be overshadowed by his older team-mates and was often overlooked by the public due to his test match specialism. However, as England captain he has now carried his Ashes form into strong leadership, guiding England to their first test victory on Indian soil in 27 years.

Following the nine-wicket domination inflicted upon Cook’s squad in the first test in Ahmedabad, countless commentators predicted another fruitless Indian tour. It is surely a testament to the leadership of the new captain that this fresh, questioned England squad were able to produce such incredible form so soon after such a crushing defeat. Cook even admitted, "There is always doubt, especially halfway through day two [of the first Test] when we were getting rolled."

Despite this, the effort of our national side was one of sublime skill and resiliency. Led from the front by Cook’s irrefutable statement that captaincy would not be a burden upon him as it has so many others in the past, coming in the form of 562 runs and three centuries over the four tests.

This brilliant series saw Cook surpass Wally Hammond, Geoff Boycott, Colin Cowdrey and team-mate Kevin Pietersen to become the all-time leading centurion for England with 23, and become the fastest batsman ever to reach 7000 runs. These feats are both incredible in their own right. Cook breached the 7000 run mark 221 days quicker than the Indian ‘little master’ Sachin Tendulkar, who passed the milestone at 28. This also means that the England captain surpassed the record for England test centuries at the age of just 27. This is simply staggering when we consider that, injuries permitting, Cook will more than likely play for England for at least another decade.

Quite aside from the historical feats of Captain Cook, his side’s performance during this series has been incredibly multi-faceted and gives England fans a great deal of hope for the future. We saw a number of new additions shine during the series. For example, the resilience shown by young Yorkshire opener Joe Root in his 229 ball stand of 73 to steady a disastrous start in the final test, coupled with the encouraging supportive play of Cook’s new opening partner Nick Compton, are both causes for optimism. 

There were also dominant performances from England’s old guard. James Anderson continued to be a ridiculously destructive force with the ball, inciting calls from Indian Captain M.S. Dhoni that he was the difference maker in the series. Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell both capped promising series with centuries on the final day of the fourth test to bring England home and Matt Prior displayed solid glove work and consistency with the bat that England fans of yesteryear could only dream of from their keeper.

Cook has also handled the return of the infamously text-happy Kevin Pietersen with grace and skill, managing to avoid controversy and enjoy a productive series from another of England’s greatest ever batsmen. When England secured this series victory on the very Nagpur pitch Cook made his eye-opening test debut, the long discussed potential of the Essex and England star was again fulfilled and the start of an exciting period in English test cricket began. As the aforementioned Nick Compton so aptly stated, "He's a terrific player. It's quite bizarre to think he's got 7,000 runs and 23 centuries and he's only just starting to get recognition." The Cook era has begun. 

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