Magazine article The Spectator

Spectator Sport: Roger Alton

Magazine article The Spectator

Spectator Sport: Roger Alton

Article excerpt

I first became aware of Alastair Cook in the Ashes summer of 2005 when he was named the Young Cricketer of the Year by the cricket writers' association following some epic performances in the county game, not least taking a double hundred off the touring Australians. The assembled brains on our table, including Mike Brearley, agreed that the boy would go far. And how...

The greatest of current English players, Cook -- happily married and impeccably polite -- set a perfect example. There were no nightclub brawls, no pedalos, not even any light aircraft. Blessed with incredible stamina and single-mindedness, he knew what worked and kept at it. He wouldn't clear the bars when he went out to bat, but without his hard work the showier players would not have had a platform to build on. He is still young, the Chef -- only 33 -- and his mentor Graham Gooch scored a shedload of Test runs after the age of 34. But he seems to have felt the well was running dry, or as he put it himself: 'There is nothing left in the tank.'

So many runs, of course -- more than any other Englishman will score in our time -- but of all his innings, one special favourite of mine was his extraordinary 263 against Pakistan in the unwavering heat of Abu Dhabi: the perfect place for 'the man who can't sweat' to ply his trade. The innings lasted 836 minutes, just a touch under 14 hours, and to judge by the pictures Cook looked as immaculately turned-out when he left the field as when he walked out to bat. Think of that: total concentration hour after hour. These days Test cricketers get lavishly praised if they can hold things together for a couple of hours -- like Ben Stokes who knuckled down for more than 100 balls for his 30 in Southampton last week. Well done, Ben; but it's not in the same league as the Chef.

Will Cook be the last of the great England openers? …

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