Cook content with little steps
Andrew Strauss was at Old Trafford on Friday for some work with Graham Gooch as he prepares to return to the helm ahead of the Test series against India. However, for one more day this is very much Alastair Cook's England team and regardless of the result in the deciding one-day international, there has been enough evidence to suggest he can make a success of his role.
In terms of the one-day side as a whole, there is much work to be done to turn them from a team that wins when conditions are in their favour into a major world force, but at the beginning of these five matches there was huge pressure on Cook, both as captain and batsman. Would the transition back into the ODI side start to unpick all the hard work that has made him a record-breaking Test batsman?
His hundred at Lord's, albeit not the most fluent innings, showed the form was still there and then his rollicking 95 off 75 balls at Trent Bridge hinted that the evolution into a batsman for more than one format was well underway. Four matches, 267 runs at an average of 89 and strike-rate of 97.80 is hard to argue with. As with his Test form, now the challenge is to maintain the success and Cook only needs to think back to last summer to know how fickle cricket can be.
How long can this run last? "Forever hopefully," he said with a laugh. "If anyone knew why form comes and goes, he'd be a very rich man. If I keep doing what I can in how I practice and how I prepare and my mindset, I cannot see any reason why I can't continue."
A captain's job is always easier when he's scoring runs, and in terms of a head-to-head Cook has far outdone his counterpart, Tillakaratne Dilshan, who has 13 runs in four innings. Cook knows he couldn't have been in a better state of mind to take on the captaincy.
"Sometimes you do need that bit of luck; I was in good form," he said. "There were question marks over my batting but I knew in myself it wasn't a big worry. I could concentrate on the captaincy as well and the batting was not a big thing in my mind. It did help that I was in good touch.
"I've enjoyed the captaincy in this series but it helps if you win. I see this as a long process of where we want to go and what we want to achieve. I've been very happy with those little steps we've made in the last couple of weeks in terms of how we play our cricket."
Cook will hope to lift the NatWest Series trophy, which would be his second piece of one-day silverware as England captain following the series in Bangladesh last year, before returning to the ranks as a foot soldier until September's one-dayers against India. He admits the demands of captaincy are tough and believes England's three-way split can keep the team fresh.
"It's very clear how we will do it. It's really good," he said. "I can concentrate hard on the captaincy and then go back into the ranks. It takes a lot out of you and having shorter periods gives the chance to refresh nicely. I'm sure Straussy is raring to go."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo