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If he didn't have a pretty good idea already, Alastair Cook now knows how quickly the emotions of an England one-day captain can shift
July 1, 2011
If he didn't have a pretty good idea already, Alastair Cook now knows how quickly the emotions of an England one-day captain can shift in the matter of a few days. From a performance where everything went right at The Oval he was left pondering an insipid display at Headingley where, except for a couple of short spells, England weren't at the races.
They still had a chance at the mid-point of the match, especially as last year they chased 295 to beat Pakistan, but no one could anchor the innings. In that game last summer Andrew Strauss scored a superb hundred and it appeared Cook could do the same, but his innings ended limply went he lofted to deep cover for 48.
"I think it was gettable but one of us needed to play a special innings," he said. "I think they got a few too many and the last 10 overs went for 100. We didn't get our skills right at the end. All of our top six got in but no one did a Mahela Jayawardene to get us close."
However, while admitting no one went on to make the telling contribution - Eoin Morgan's electric 52 off 40 balls was the top score - Cook defended the approach of England's top order. Craig Kieswetter and Kevin Pietersen were both caught on the boundary while Morgan was stumped off Suraj Randiv, but Cook said it's part of the risk-and-reward strategy of the format
"It's part of one-day cricket, you have to take those risks to keep the scoreboard ticking and when you don't execute it well it looks a poor shot. I thought a lot of our shots were the right choice, we just didn't play them well enough."
Two matches into Cook's full-time reign is far too early to be drawing any conclusions - this was his first defeat in five matches as ODI captain - but the start of this series has been another example of the lack of consistency that has so often been the major issue with England's 50-over cricket. For every 110-run win there is a 69-run defeat just around the corner. Even when they win one-day series - as they did three times last summer against Australia, Bangladesh and Pakistan - it is not without a mid-series wobble (Bangladesh and Pakistan) or a late fade with the job done (Australia). It is why their ranking has stayed mid-table for so long.
England's performance in the field highlighted how their standards had slipped just three days on from their victory in London. Graeme Swann's costly miss at slip to give Mahela Jaywardene a life on 7 was called "an 80-20" chance by Cook, but England train hard to take those types of catches, while Swann spilled another at short fine-leg off the struggling Stuart Broad.
"It was a very tough chance and you aren't blaming them," Cook said. "It wasn't a game-turner but in our fielding we aim to take those chances and we work hard in practice. I'm not blaming Swanny for that one."
The other problem for Cook was a lack of control with the ball in an attack heavily based around four pacemen. Three of them went at seven or more per over which undid any pressure built up by probing spells from James Anderson and Graeme Swann. Broad's problems continued with a wicketless 10 overs for 70, leaving him with no scalps since the Test series and just eight for the summer, while Tim Bresnan didn't enjoy his home ground return.
Jade Dernbach was the other bowler to have a rough day with his nine overs costing 63. That is no issue for a player in just his second game but he did get involved in a slightly hot-headed confrontation with Jayawardene in the 38th over which required words from umpire Billy Bowden. Jayawardene's suggestion appeared to be that Dernbach altered his path to impede the batsman although Cook was quick to defend his fast bowler's attitude.
"I enjoyed it, I think that's the passion you need to play cricket with," Cook said. "You've got to have that passion and pride to play for England and it's important not to take a backward step."
Tillakaratne Dilshan also insisted he had no issues with the exchange - "it happens on the cricket field," he said - but perhaps what Cook should have done is told Dernbach to have a look at the scoreboard. Jayawardene was on 116 when the two exchanged views. It was a moment that summed up a poor day for England.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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