The Ashes: An ode to Alastair Cook
PUBLISHED: 09:00 31 December 2017
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There was something about the way Alastair Cook celebrated his magnificent double-century in the fourth Ashes Test in Melbourne that epitomised his character.
While the Barmy Army roared their approval, the England dressing room collectively punched the air and even the most hardened of Australian fans rose to their feet to acknowledge some fight from the Poms, Cook was comparatively muted in his celebrations.
Granted, his beaming smile was plain to see, and there were a few short moments where he allowed himself the pleasure of savouring such an achievement.
But within just 40 seconds, the Essex man was already practicing his straight drive, collecting his thoughts and once again focusing on the job at hand: to bat his team into a dominant position and try to restore some pride to a hitherto disastrous Ashes campaign.
Cook deserves a huge amount of credit for the way he responded to his – and the team’s – desperately disappointing showings in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. This was the first time an England opener had carried his bat since Michael Atherton in 1997, and the highest score by a visiting batsman to the MCG since Viv Richards hit 208 in 1984.
It was the 32nd test century of Cook’s career – the fifth time he has gone beyond 200 – and he moved beyond Mahele Jayawardene, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Brian Lara on his way to becoming the sixth highest Test match run scorer in the history of the game.
Not bad for a player supposedly in last chance saloon at the age of just 33.
Cook’s 244 not out at the MCG surmised every great mental capacity that he possesses – concentration, steely grit and power of will – as he completed the set of centuries at every Australian Test venue after averaging just 13.83 in the first three matches of this tour.
Of course, plenty will be frustrated and disappointed that it has taken so long for Cook to arrive to the party, but the idea that these were ‘easy runs’ given the absence of Australia’s spearhead Mitchell Starc, the lifeless nature of the pitch and the fact that this test was a ‘dead rubber’ is unfair.
Cook went out to bat with his future as a Test opener hanging in the balance, desperately out of form, with the prospect of a 5-0 humiliation firmly on the cards, and he delivered – in a big way.
England had the better of the game in Melbourne after surrendering the Ashes at the earliest opportunity – now they must follow the example set by Cook and repay the faith shown by the wonderful Barmy Army with a consolation victory in the Sydney Test, which starts on Wednesday (January 3).