Thursday, 4 June 2015

Alastair Cook - 9000

Thursday, 4 June 2015
Just a few weeks ago I was writing about the achievements of James Anderson, taking his 384th wicket to become England's leading test wicket taker (he has since moved on past the 400 mark). But now he is not the only one in the team topping an all-time list: the second test against New Zealand saw the captain Alastair Cook move on to 9000 test runs, and in doing so surpassing Graham Gooch's 8900 to become England's leading test run scorer.

From the moment Alastair Cook made his test debut aged 21, the talk was always about when - not if - he would break Gooch's record. Straight away he made his impact in the team with scores of 60 and 104* on debut in Nagpur, and that despite having flown half way around the world just days before after being involved with the academy team in the West Indies. He was soon a fixture in the side, the new golden boy already touted as a future captain and with great hopes pinned for his future. Of course, like every player Cook has faced his ups and downs along the way, but every time he has come back fighting. Cook was a main star of England's golden year in 2010/11, scoring 766 runs at 126.66 in the Ashes, 390 runs in four innings against Sri Lanka, and his highest test score of 294 against India - but in the summer of 2010 he was fighting to keep his place in the side. And the past two years have seen him struggle with the bat most of all, scoring just enough to get by but not much more, but this year he's started to look as strong as ever - with that never ending patience that grinds opponents down.

Cook has never been a pretty player to watch. When he's at his best, you don't even notice him that much - normally someone else is doing something more exciting at the other end. But that's what makes him such a brilliant test player - he brings the glue, others can bring the flair. We've seen it in this series alone - Stokes ran rampant in the second innings at Lord's and stole all the headlines, scoring 101 in the pair's 132 run partnership; but Cook was still the rock, batting over a day to score 162. Cook is happy to leave and not to be tempted, forcing the bowler to bowl to him - and then punish him for it. And if there's a bad ball, Cook will put it away, cutting and pulling being his major strengths. When he's in form, rarely will his concentration break, and if he passes 100, he'll simply try to score 100 more and make it a 'daddy' hundred. When England go big, a lot of the time Cook will have gone big too, so often the cornerstone of a large score.

Though Cook may never be the greatest of tacticians, what he does do is lead from the front. He is one of the few whose batting average as captain is higher than when not, and that is even including his troubles of the past two years. In what could be described as his greatest achievement as captain - the series win away in India - he was certainly at the forefront, providing that leadership with the bat and scoring three centuries. His captaincy will always attract its critics, but when he is scoring runs and leading that batting line up, he goes a long way to making them quieter.

Records have always tumbled around Cook, and they will only continue to do so. Still only 30 years old, with 9000 runs and 114 tests under his belt, he will easily become England's first man to pass 10,000 test runs, and could even join Tendulkar up in the 15,000 club. Already he has 27 test centuries, another list he heads in the English record book, and many more will surely come. A landmark may have been passed for now, but as ever with Cook, he will still be there patiently adding many more.

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