England’s captain Cook is once again enjoying his time in India
It seems Alistair Cook can do no wrong in India. Making his debut in Nagpur, aged just 21, he scored a gritty 300-ball century, marking him out as a future talent on the world stage.
Then in December, just as it seemed 2012 could not provide any more sporting highlights, he led England to their first series victory in India for 28 years, ending as the highest run scorer on either side – not bad for his first series as permanent Test captain.
Now back on Indian soil once again, he has picked up where he left off, leading England to their first one-day win in India since April 2006 and ending a 14-game winless streak, to give new limited-overs coach Ashley Giles the best possible start to his reign.
As so often recently it was Cook’s contribution at the start of the innings that provided the backbone for England’s victory, as he made 75 in an opening partnership of 158 with Ian Bell – a record first-wicket stand for England against India.
Largely written off as a one-day player early in his career, Cook has proved his doubters wrong since being given his chance in the 50 over game. He is an efficient rather than explosive run-scorer, but nevertheless he has done well at the top of the order and averages just under 50 in his last 15 innings.
Yesterday he was so comfortable at the crease he even hit a rare six, only his fifth in 57 one-day games and perhaps the only disappointment was that, like so many England batsmen in one-day history, he didn’t convert his score into a hundred.
This continues to be a problem for England, in fact Kevin Pietersen is the only current England international to have broken into the top 50 century makers in one-day history. In comparison four of India’s team yesterday are on that list, not to mention Sachin Tendulkar, very recently retired, and Virender Sehwag, very recently dropped.
Lack of centuries aside this was a good win for England, giving them what seems to be modern cricket’s all-important weapon – momentum – and containing some potentially important performances from players more normally on the fringes of the side.
Playing without frontline spinners Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, who had both excelled during the recent test series, there was a reasonable amount of pressure before the game on third-choice James Tredwell to have the same sort of impact.
Much to the delight of England fans, players and coaching staff alike, this is exactly what the Kent man did, recording career best figures of 44-4 in his ten overs. The 30-year-old made the vital breakthrough time and time again, dismissing India’s entire top five, with the exception of Virat Kohli.
Another promising aspect of England’s victory was the performance of their middle order. Despite the excellent foundation laid by Cook and Bell, the loss in quick succession of both Pietersen and Eoin Morgan – who are undeniably England’s two most swashbuckling one-day batsmen and were well set at the time – threatened to derail the entire innings.
However the excellent partnership of 70 between Craig Kieswetter and Samit Patel was vital in getting England to a respectable total. Kieswetter has been criticised in the past for allowing too many dot balls when opening the batting, but lower down the order his slightly binary run-scoring tendencies seemed to be less of a problem.
Samit Patel meanwhile had arguably his finest game for England with the bat. His 44* from just 20 balls proved to be the turning point in the game, eclipsing the 70* he made at Mohali during his last ODI tour of India in 2011 when England slipped to a five-wicket defeat.
While there is still a long way to go in the series and India will be increasingly eager to prove themselves given their semi-disastrous winter, England were impressive at Rajkot, albeit in a style which much like their captain was efficient rather than spectacular. With morale high in the tourists’ camp they could be on course for another historic series win.
Given Cook’s past record in India, you wouldn’t put it past them.
Follow the writer on twitter @thesportsfoxTagged in: Alistair Cook, Cricket, england, Eoin Morgan, Ian Bell, India, James Tredwell, Kevin Pietersen, Sachin Tendulkar, Samit Patel, Virat Kohli, Virender Sehwag
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