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George Dobell at the Ageas Bowl
July 31, 2014
'Important win for young players' - Cook
Alastair Cook hailed "the perfect game" as England clinched their first victory in 11 Tests in Southampton. Cook, in particular, had come under increasing pressure for his place as captain following a grim run of form but he admitted a "weight has been lifted" after he scored half-centuries in both innings and saw several other players contribute valuable performances to help the side to victory by 266 runs over India.
"We had as good a game as you could have," Cook said. "We performed really well, to a man. We set the game up with the bat and then kept pressure on with the ball. Scoreboard pressure told and we had as good a game as you could have."
Cook admitted that concerns over results and his own form - he was averaging 14.33 in 2014 before this game - had started to threaten his position. But though he expressed relief at the result, he also conceded that he had to contribute more consistently if his critics were to be silenced.
"It was getting to a crux situation," Cook said. "If it had carried on like that who knows what would have happened? The weight is lifted. Certainly if I'd scored nought and five and we'd lost the game… Under that pressure, the first innings meant a lot.
"One game does not change everything and we know how important my runs are from the top of the order. I don't know if my captaincy got dragged into it but when you are losing there will be focus on it.
"This summer we've played good cricket for one or two sessions out of three. But this time we sustained it. We were relentless. We never let India off the hook. We kept them under pressure and it takes a lot of skill and determination to do that. We did not let up.
"The guys who were questioned really delivered. Ian Bell scored a big hundred; Stuart Broad bowled incredibly well - when he bowls at that pace no one wants to face him. Chris Woakes bowled with fantastic control and good pace and I've never seen a bowler improve as much as Moeen Ali in a short space of time. Gary Ballance is doing well at No. 3 and Joe Root is doing well at No. 5. We've won a game and I've scored runs. It's been a better week."
The experience of winning would, Cook reasoned, prove vital for a young side. "For some guys, that was their first experience of winning a Test," he said. "Gary Ballance ran to collect a stump at the end and I realised he did not know what it was like. Now he knows. He knows what it takes. The challenge is to repeat it at Old Trafford and try and win the series."
Anderson pleased with return to form
Cook paid particular tribute to the work rate of Moeen after his six second-innings wickets handed England a thumping win. Moeen was labelled a part-time spinner when handed a Test debut at the start of the summer but showed ability far beyond that tag with 6 for 67 to bowl England to victory. Cook praised the effort Moeen has put in to develop his promising offspin, which includes a fledgling doosra.
"His bowling has come on leaps and bounds since the start of the summer," Cook told Sky Sports afterwards. "Credit to Mo, he's worked really hard, it's difficult being a bit part-time, bowling behind Saeed Ajmal at Worcester, but he's fronted up to the responsibility."
Moeen's bowling proved a useful option in the first two Test of the series; he arrived at the Ageas Bowl with seven wickets but finished the match as the joint-second highest wicket-taker in the series with 15 scalps, one behind James Anderson.
Cook identified Moeen's adaptability as the key to his return in the third Test. "The guys in the nets have been telling him the lines are slightly different bowling in international cricket when you've got to hold an end and he's responded really well. Then on a spinning wicket to get six wickets and win the game, you can't ask for any more."
Moeen is one of several young players that have performed well since coming in as part of England's "new era" at the start of the summer. Ballance made his third century in six Tests at the Ageas Bowl and is now the leading run-scorer in the series.
"People will remember that for a long time," Cook said of the moment of victory. "We've worked incredibly hard and had some tough moments. We said we want to see the senior guys stand up as well as the youngsters, and one to 11 we've been fantastic.
"I don't think I'm relieved, happy is probably a better word. It's a great performance from day one, I don't think we lost a session and that's credit to the guys. Every one of the 11 has contributed."
That included Cook, whose batting featured more positive play on the front foot after a run of five Tests without a fifty. "I said at Lord's I thought my game was heading back in the right direction," Cook said. "With a 10 and a 20 there it was quite a hard thing to say, but backing it up here I'm incredibly pleased. Getting back into the ball is vital for my game, I'm pretty good on the short ball, but in the danger zone I've nicked off quite a lot, so I need to make sure I'm getting my feet and my head back into the ball."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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