England in India / Features

India v England, 1st Test, Nagpur, 1st day

Cook's impressive debut

Alastair Cook arrived arrived in India as a raw, 21-year-old but within two sessions of the opening Test, he showed just why he is so highly rated in England

On the Ball with S Rajesh

March 1, 2006

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Alastair Cook arrived in India as a raw, 21-year-old with only 37 first-class matches under his belt, but within two sessions of the opening Test, he showed just why he is so highly rated in England. That he played the seamers quite comfortably wasn't surprising, but the manner in which he handled Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh would have encouraged Duncan Fletcher no end, though it must be remembered that this was only a first-day track.

With the pitch offering little assistance to the fast bowlers, the spinners came into operation in the tenth over itself, but Cook stayed firm. Admittedly, his scoring rate dropped dramatically - he scored at 4.15 runs per over off Sreesanth (27 off 39), but only managed 32 from 117 off the spinners (1.64 per over) - but he was rarely troubled by the slow bowlers: his in-control percentage against them was an impressive 91.5. As the graphic below shows, Cook's biggest virtue was his patience - he defended or left alone 71 balls, while 21 out of 32 runs came from a stroke no more adventurous than a flick to leg.

Cook also showed his penchant for the leg side in his innings - 31 runs were scored in the arc between midwicket and backward square leg, a fact which might force the Indians to bowl on or outside off more often. Cook will surely face sterner battles over the next few weeks, but the start couldn't have been much better.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo.

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.
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