A 95 that could revive Alastair Cook's sinking career

Tags: India tour of England, 2014, England Vs India, 3rd Test at Southampton - Jul 27-31, 2014, England, India, Alastair Nathan Cook

Published on: Jul 28, 2014

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Going into the third Test against India at Southampton, there was no one under more pressure than England skipper Alastair Cook. He hadn't scored a hundred for over a year

Going into the third Test against India at Southampton, there was no one under more pressure than England skipper Alastair Cook. He hadn't scored a hundred for over a year, and during this period, never looked like he would score one. The critics as well as the British press were gunning for his head. While his personal form hit an all-time low, the team was also going through a rough patch, and had hit an embarrassing losing streak. Against this background, Cook went into the third Test at Southampton knowing very well that another failure, and the knives would only get sharper. With his 95 on Sunday, he has kept critics at bay for the time being.

It wasn't a knock that signalled Cook's return to form. Instead, it was a struggling innings, during which Cook rarely looked in control. But, what mattered the most for the England captain was the runs he got. Cook did a couple of things right for which he deserves to be applauded. First things first, he decided to bat first after winning the toss. There was grass on the pitch, but not as much as Lord's. It would have been understandable had Cook decided to insert India in again. Instead, the England skipper took a brave decision, and batted first. He also made a statement of intent by taking first strike.

As mentioned earlier, Cook wasn't impressive during his stay at the crease, but he did not throw his wicket away. He could have been out the very first ball as Cook edged a perfect delivery behind the wicket from Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The pitch did not have enough pace to take the ball through, and the edge fell just short of the slips. It was an early indication that luck might be on Cook's side at last. On another unlucky day, he could easily have been dismissed first ball. On 15, he could again have been out, but Ravindra Jadeja dropped a catch off debutant Pankaj Singh. Jadeja was the hero in the last game; he might end up being the villain in the piece here.

Coming back to Cook's knock, he made a conscious effort to work around his weaknesses. His stance was broader, as he used his height to try and smother the swing and seam. And, he was successful in the same. They say fortune favours the brave, and Cook definitely showed plenty of courage during the course of the innings. Although he never looked in control during his stay at the crease, he fought out the tough times. There was a suggestion prior to the Test that Cook must try and hit out. However, that is not his style of play. Instead, he focused on rotating the strike even when the ball was asking to be hit. When he went to lunch unbeaten, he got a standing ovation, a clear demonstration of what it meant to the fans.

While Cook deserves praise for fighting it out in the middle, he was aided by some poor Indian pace bowling. There was something in the pitch for the Indian pacers to exploit, but after the initial few overs, they did not seem to have a plan in place. Cook should have been troubled more outside the off stump, but strangely India did not put many balls in the corridor of uncertainty. As he spent time at the crease, his confidence increased. He still wasn't timing the ball well, but it was the amount of time he spent at the crease that mattered. The 95 may not signal Cook's return to form, but over the next four days, he would have one less headache.

--By A Cricket Analyst

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