Newspaper article The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Australia)

Cook's Secret ... Spice It Up; Few Captains Have Achieved So Much with So Little Fuss

Newspaper article The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Australia)

Cook's Secret ... Spice It Up; Few Captains Have Achieved So Much with So Little Fuss

Article excerpt

Byline: Stephen Brenkley The Independent

THE fourth Test match was drifting away from England. Alastair Cook, the captain, hardly seemed to be doing much. Australia were rattling along at four runs an over.

Occasionally, Cook scratched his nose and took off his cap to rub his hands through his jet-black hair but that was as emotional as it got. The field settings seemed blandly defensive, the bowlers were uninspired, the packed crowd at Durham ICG were strangely detached.

Of runs there were plenty and of wickets there were none. Something needed to happen or it would be 2-1 in the series and the retention of the Ashes would look decidedly hollow if it then became 2-2 at The Oval. Cook, chiselled jaw and sculpted cheeks, was about as impassive, calm and handsome as Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird.

It was to transpire that he had some of Atticus Finch's wisdom too. In pretty quick succession when action was vitally needed, Cook acted by doing three things. Without them, England would not have gone 3-0 ahead in the series with an opportunity to win four matches in a home Ashes series for the first time.

The first came at tea when Australia were 120 for 1, 179 short of their target. Cook spoke to his players. The details of what he said have not been revealed. But it was quietly spoken, firm and, like all winning generals, probably came down to asking his charges to pull their fingers out.

Stuart Broad, the fast bowler who took 6 for 50 in a blaze of high-velocity glory, said the bowlers were told to "spice it up a bit". They changed their lengths and bowled with more venom. Broad finished with match figures of 11 for 121, the best by an England fast bowler in the Ashes since Fred Trueman took 11 for 88 at Headingley in 1961. Cook assisted them crucially.

"I was present in the dressing room at the time but, to be quite frank, this is one of those instances where we don't talk about what we said," said Andy Flower, the England coach, yesterday. "I won't talk in any detail about it but in those sorts of situations at 120 for 1, those are the instances where you need strong and decisive leadership and Cook showed that."

Cook's second sage intervention came when Australia had reached 168 for 2. Significantly, Graeme Swann had taken the first two wickets. He had operated from the Finchale End, which takes its name from the old monastery nearby, for 14 overs on the trot. The ball was turning.

Swann might win it for England. Cook took him off and asked Tim Bresnan to bowl. It seemed perverse. Had it failed, Cook might have been advised to seek sanctuary in Finchale. With his fourth ball, Bresnan spiced it up. It reared like a spitting cobra at David Warner, who was winning it on his own with a vigorous and composed 71. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.