Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

If Cook Fails One More Time, Then Selectors Must Drop Him; with the Ashes Looming, England Opener Must Sort out His Technique against the Swinging Ball or Face the Axe

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

If Cook Fails One More Time, Then Selectors Must Drop Him; with the Ashes Looming, England Opener Must Sort out His Technique against the Swinging Ball or Face the Axe

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan Agnew BBC Cricket Correspondent

IT is only right that Alastair Cook's place at the top of England's batting order is the subject of such debate at the moment. His statistics for the summer make dismal reading -- he is averaging only 14 -- and the one thing the Pakistanis have managed to achieve in this series is to highlight his poor technique against the swinging ball. But despite that, I doubt very much that the selectors will drop him.

The squad for next week's Test at The Brit Insurance Oval will be announced on Sunday morning by the national selector Geoff Miller and unless he has a dramatic change of habit, he will talk about "keeping faith", "momentum" and of a "winning team". I will be very surprised indeed if Cook's name is missing from the list.

Had we been talking about a No6 batsman, it might be different. That is usually the position to which new players are introduced and often the place that struggling batsmen are relegated to before the axe. But an opener is different.

Having a settled partnership at the top of the order is one of the most pressing issues the selectors have to address, almost before everything else.

You need experience and confidence from your openers as they go out and take on everything the opposition can throw at them. Dropping one of them is unsettling for the team and should only be done when his form really has deserted him. Given that Cook has played two matches against Pakistan in such bowler-friendly conditions, I believe England will give him one more match, on a flat pitch at The Oval, to come good. But if he fails next week, Cook will have to make way.

There is talk of Jonathan Trott moving up to open in his place but that would be very risky and, again, something the naturally cautious Miller would steer away from. Trott has looked calm and secure at No3 -- despite having to come in almost immediately given Cook's poor run -- and, again, this is a key position. …

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