England v India, 3rd Investec Test, Ageas Bowl, 1st day July 27, 2014

Ugly runs but still they swoon

Alastair Cook did not bat like a leading man but the crowd applauded him for simply not failing
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The umpire called time and the crowd rose. They clapped. Almost every single one of them. The applause was jarring on a morning of closed-faced bunts and turgid run accumulation. Gary Ballance was out there, but no one was applauding him. It was all for Alastair Cook. He had survived until lunch. One whole session and the crowd rose to congratulate a man with 25 Test centuries and over 8000 Test runs because he didn't get out.

It was un-ironic and spontaneous, they clapped not because Cook hadn't been good, but more specifically because he wasn't bad.

The crowd gave a collective "ugh" noise as the very first ball took his edge and went towards slip. This pitch and Bhuvneshwar Kumar's pace meant that it travelled slowly but the potential car-crash nature of a Cook first-ball duck slowed it down to a an excruciating degree. Cook's career was wobbling behind him. Most of the crowd were still yet to put their bags on the ground. Billy the Trumpet had not even finished wetting his lips. And had the ball carried all the way to second slip, Cook would have been gone. Gone.

The crowd didn't applaud the edge falling short, but they all started breathing again as it did.

It didn't get better. A ball hit the face of Cook's bat and it turned his bat around. He played an off-side shot with the bat on an angle that would turn the stomach of many batsmen. His thigh pad was hit. Cook protects his thigh pad like it proves the existence of God when he is in form. This was not Cook in form. This was a wet-blanketed edgy bloke who missed balls on his pads.

Pankaj Singh came around the wicket to deliver a ball angling in, short of a length, and moving away. Cook edged it. Ravindra Jadeja dropped it.

Cook was working on everything. His guard had moved back to leg, from the middle at Lord's. His feet were more open. And he was holding his bat in such a way he was physically forcing himself to play straight. Had he superglued his hands on to the bat, he could not have emphasised that he was trying to overcome his flaw. Even his backing up at the non-striker's end was forced. Instead of a gentle walk in with bowler, or even an eager jog, he had adopted a near jump-and-pounce premeditated manoeuvre that left him in a cat-like pose waiting for the single. This was a man who had thought more about his game in the last week than people talk about tragedies on Twitter.

A normal defensive shot ended up looking like the bat and ball are determined to not meet. A juicy half volley was punished with a feather. Even his pull shots weren't Cook pull shots, they were polite cross-bat paddles followed by a jog to the other end, happy enough to get off strike for another ball.

Finally there was a ball slow and terrible enough for Cook to bring out the true force of his family and smack it. It was short and disgusting, but as it flew through point the crowd cheered as if Cook had beheaded a wyvern. Sure, most of the crowd could have hit it for four, but Cook did it, their Cooky, they want him to succeed.

The celebration didn't last long, his back foot inventing a new dance move as he played and missed. "The Cooky" may never catch on. A slash through gully put hands on heads of Indians and provided sharp intakes of breaths all around the bowl. A really, really, really slow short one from Rohit Sharma virtually hit itself for four and then applauded the shot as Cook watched on.

India dropped Cook, but they also helped by bowling as inconsistently as they could to him. They tried to bowl short, because they clearly didn't see the viral video of how often he is dismissed from full balls. They were too wide. They were too straight. The impeccable groupings from Lord's were replaced by single dots that seem to be following no real plan.

Cook wasn't forced to play straight, so he didn't. His traditional V of just behind and just in front of square leg reemerged. He didn't charge down to reverse sweep a bouncer. He started hitting the balls on his hip, he hustled between the wickets , he bunted balls out to point and stole singles, he cashed in on short balls outside off stump, and he ignored the zone straight down the ground.

If batting could be compared to the good looks of Hollywood's leading men, this was the Tor Johnson. It bumped into scenery, mumbled incomprehensibly and made you feel awkward for much of the time you were watching it. But it was an innings. An actual innings. One that they didn't even seem to mind finishing five runs too soon.

The final ball. The seven-two leg field. The short filthy delivery down the leg side. The batsman trying to hit the ball a bit too hard. An umpire readjusting his trousers. Alastair Cook dismissed for 95. The crowd stood and applauded.

They stood and applauded him for getting to lunch. They stood and applauded him for getting to fifty. They stood and applauded him for getting to 95. They stood and applauded as he left the pitch, walked up the stairs, and then up the other stairs, and then as he finally disappeared into the dressing room. They stood and applauded him for simply not failing. They like him.

Jarrod Kimber was 50% of the Two Chucks, and is the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • prakash_mishra on July 28, 2014, 2:22 GMT

    Not a masterclass definitely from Cook, but then he is not among those whose innings are pleasant to eyes. This is how he plays. He did look edgy but then these runs will give him confidence that he so badly needed. I think this might be the turning point in this series and England as a team will now bounce back stronger than they have so far. A 500 plus definitely looks on cards. This will create a lot of pressure on Indian batting line-up and few early wickets and England will be favorites to win this test match. Just looking at the day 1, I don't believe that this pitch will be a no result pitch. Indian seamers are not good enough to take wickets as B.Kumar lacks pace, Shami lacks consistency and Pankaj lacks both.English bowlers are far better. If Ishant does not recover in time, India's fate is going to be similar to Brazil's when they lost Neymar through injury. Its bit too early to say, but an innings defeat looks in store for India.

  • Wallruss on July 28, 2014, 16:03 GMT

    No they cheered and applauded because despite being in terrible form and under huge pressure from the media, he showed guts and got through it. Something that us Brits value highly.

  • KerneelsMerkII on July 28, 2014, 15:01 GMT

    Imagine if South Africans liked Graham Smith this much. It is a weird world we live in.

  • on July 28, 2014, 15:01 GMT

    v shud encourage him. he will b legend in some tym. he has some insticts which keeps him little differ. i like Mr. cook since he played his 1st test against india & made century. He just needs some more tym to come bak. remebr mark taylor who scored century in england & thn next century again against england in next ashes & v still admire him. Cook is comlete batsman who makes minor mistakes & thn later these become big for himself. he is in dilema bt he will come out of it very soon. 25 centuries.... long way to go.

  • on July 28, 2014, 11:26 GMT

    Sir_Ivor I watched a few over yesterday and the impression that I got immediately was that India are going to struggle to get 20 wickets and I am afraid that what is happening. I am afraid that with the quality of our bowlers 3 and the half bowlers are not good enough especially when one of them is making a debut and the others strength is swing bowling. Having said that if India really wants to win series abroad they should encourage genuine pace bowlers like Aaron and Umesh play at least one of them.

  • davidlister on July 28, 2014, 11:22 GMT

    You are right- we like him. This is because, cricket aside for one moment, he is a kind of very English hero, modest, thoroughly decent, honest and handsome in a non-showy, old-fashioned way. He would be every mother's perfect son-in law. He is a lovely man. Therefore, he will get tons of leeway because these kind of figureheads are not thick on the ground.

  • on July 28, 2014, 11:19 GMT

    Sir_Ivor I watched a few over yesterday and the impression that I got immediately was that India are going to struggle to get 20 wickets and I am afraid that what is happening. I am afraid that with the quality of our bowlers 3 and the half bowlers are not good enough especially when one of them is making a debut and the others strength is swing bowling. Having said that if India really wants to win series abroad they should encourage genuine pace bowlers like Aaron and Umesh play at least one of them.

  • baghels.a on July 28, 2014, 9:31 GMT

    LOL @ Tor Johson reference, it definitely made me chuckle Jarrod.

  • YorkshirePudding on July 28, 2014, 9:12 GMT

    @Nicholas Hughes, I also suspect it was a show of support for cook based on what the media has been publishing, for the last few months.

    He doesn't look back to his best but the innings reminded me of the Oval 2010, slip chances going down, and a stutter on the approach to 100, the only difference is he didn't a 100 off over throws.

  • RB007 on July 28, 2014, 8:48 GMT

    India missing Ishant as Brazil missed Neymar. Well well welll. As in politics, it seems one week is a long time in sports these days!

  • prakash_mishra on July 28, 2014, 2:22 GMT

    Not a masterclass definitely from Cook, but then he is not among those whose innings are pleasant to eyes. This is how he plays. He did look edgy but then these runs will give him confidence that he so badly needed. I think this might be the turning point in this series and England as a team will now bounce back stronger than they have so far. A 500 plus definitely looks on cards. This will create a lot of pressure on Indian batting line-up and few early wickets and England will be favorites to win this test match. Just looking at the day 1, I don't believe that this pitch will be a no result pitch. Indian seamers are not good enough to take wickets as B.Kumar lacks pace, Shami lacks consistency and Pankaj lacks both.English bowlers are far better. If Ishant does not recover in time, India's fate is going to be similar to Brazil's when they lost Neymar through injury. Its bit too early to say, but an innings defeat looks in store for India.

  • Wallruss on July 28, 2014, 16:03 GMT

    No they cheered and applauded because despite being in terrible form and under huge pressure from the media, he showed guts and got through it. Something that us Brits value highly.

  • KerneelsMerkII on July 28, 2014, 15:01 GMT

    Imagine if South Africans liked Graham Smith this much. It is a weird world we live in.

  • on July 28, 2014, 15:01 GMT

    v shud encourage him. he will b legend in some tym. he has some insticts which keeps him little differ. i like Mr. cook since he played his 1st test against india & made century. He just needs some more tym to come bak. remebr mark taylor who scored century in england & thn next century again against england in next ashes & v still admire him. Cook is comlete batsman who makes minor mistakes & thn later these become big for himself. he is in dilema bt he will come out of it very soon. 25 centuries.... long way to go.

  • on July 28, 2014, 11:26 GMT

    Sir_Ivor I watched a few over yesterday and the impression that I got immediately was that India are going to struggle to get 20 wickets and I am afraid that what is happening. I am afraid that with the quality of our bowlers 3 and the half bowlers are not good enough especially when one of them is making a debut and the others strength is swing bowling. Having said that if India really wants to win series abroad they should encourage genuine pace bowlers like Aaron and Umesh play at least one of them.

  • davidlister on July 28, 2014, 11:22 GMT

    You are right- we like him. This is because, cricket aside for one moment, he is a kind of very English hero, modest, thoroughly decent, honest and handsome in a non-showy, old-fashioned way. He would be every mother's perfect son-in law. He is a lovely man. Therefore, he will get tons of leeway because these kind of figureheads are not thick on the ground.

  • on July 28, 2014, 11:19 GMT

    Sir_Ivor I watched a few over yesterday and the impression that I got immediately was that India are going to struggle to get 20 wickets and I am afraid that what is happening. I am afraid that with the quality of our bowlers 3 and the half bowlers are not good enough especially when one of them is making a debut and the others strength is swing bowling. Having said that if India really wants to win series abroad they should encourage genuine pace bowlers like Aaron and Umesh play at least one of them.

  • baghels.a on July 28, 2014, 9:31 GMT

    LOL @ Tor Johson reference, it definitely made me chuckle Jarrod.

  • YorkshirePudding on July 28, 2014, 9:12 GMT

    @Nicholas Hughes, I also suspect it was a show of support for cook based on what the media has been publishing, for the last few months.

    He doesn't look back to his best but the innings reminded me of the Oval 2010, slip chances going down, and a stutter on the approach to 100, the only difference is he didn't a 100 off over throws.

  • RB007 on July 28, 2014, 8:48 GMT

    India missing Ishant as Brazil missed Neymar. Well well welll. As in politics, it seems one week is a long time in sports these days!

  • SwamyCricketAnanda on July 28, 2014, 8:35 GMT

    Next to Taunton, this pitch is the most batsman-friendly surface in England. So I will not be surprised if Bhuvaneshwar Kumar scores a century on this wicket. Nothing to write home about. I doubt this innings of Cook will help him find his form on less helpful surfaces.

  • cricmatters on July 28, 2014, 8:33 GMT

    Another boring draw looms in the horizon.

  • on July 28, 2014, 8:04 GMT

    I think Jarrod Kimber is being somewhat unfair to Cook here; it was a gritty, ground out innings but there were times in the afternoon session when Cook looked more relaxed and composed than what's been described here. Getting forwards and batting out of his crease looked to help him. The support for Cook was because he looked to have worked on his game during the week and had come up with a method to combat the Indian bowlers and it was obvious to those watching that he's not been complacent.

  • on July 28, 2014, 7:59 GMT

    Hats off to the lad. Even the gods were helping him - am happy he did not fall early and survived to 95 by whatever means

  • USAMAAJMAL678 on July 28, 2014, 7:42 GMT

    @sonofstan....first of all i would love to see england win but the tactics the england are using are baffling...india are a defensive test team and also playing away from home..they have also got a 1-0 lead so i rather expected these tactics from india....but england playing at home against a weak inidan team and they started the series with only 3 specialist bowlers..that was astonishing for me that they are going in with only 3 specialist bowlers and now they have put another so called allrounder jordan in the team going with only 2 specialist bowlers and packing their team with batsmen upto 10..whatever i have seen of woakes abd jordan they are at best one day bolwers abd not test quality bolwers they are just mediocre bowlers...and if england think they can get 20 wickets with likes of jordan and woakes im not sure what they are thinking...they cant win the series unless they go with 4 genuine fast bowlers and not mediocre bowlers like woakes and jordan..

  • Sir_Ivor on July 28, 2014, 7:08 GMT

    Prakash_Mishra While I agree that England is in a very good position and could score big in the first innings, I think England has benefited through poor fielding from the Indian close in fielders and of course some obvious umpiring errors. Pankaj and Shami bowled well. Bhuvi had an off day and Jadeja bowled the wrong line. They will probably get their acts together soon enough. But the thing I would like to mention is that India is not playing with bunnies as batsmen. Though they may not be as experienced yet, they look capable. The wicket looks good for batting and should be so for at least another two and a half days and a half at least. So it is too early to predict sorrowful doom for the Indians. They should hopefully be able to defend themselves from the rampaging foursome of Anderson,Broad,Woakes and Jordan and the wily Moeen Ali. I think this should be another competitve game on the evidence of what we have seen thus far. So let us wait for the game to resume.

  • on July 28, 2014, 7:05 GMT

    I commented after the second innings at Lords that Cook is due for a come back. No he is not back in form, not yet. But he is putting a price on his wicket and not throwing it away. With someone of his experience and class, this a sure shot recipe for a come back.

  • IndiaNumeroUno on July 28, 2014, 6:57 GMT

    Should have scored a double century on this road of a pitch!!

  • sonofstan on July 28, 2014, 6:17 GMT

    Kimber, the reaction of the crowd is to show that we support Cook and is in fact two fingers to the likes of yourself, former captains and the Peitersen camp. Cook IS the England captain, move one.

    @ USAMAAJMAL678 - India have already played their hand for the rest of the series by bringing in an extra batsmen - trying for three draws are we....a certain tactic for handing over the initiative and losing the series.

  • on July 28, 2014, 5:24 GMT

    Guts and determination when many had deserted him. Lets sincerely hope that the "corner has been turned." All power to A.C.

  • Sir_Ivor on July 28, 2014, 5:03 GMT

    Cook has been as near as possible to that elusive great batsmen from England that everyone has been waiting for. Maybe the next Hobbs or Hutton. So the relief that he did not get out early yesterday despite the fact that he should have gone much earlier that when he did. I can understand how every Englishman would have felt when he rose to applaud Alistair at the end of the day. But I am not convinced that he will ever return to be the batsman that he was in the Ashes a few years ago. His chinks have been seen and in these days when technology makes you naked, nothing remains hidden for very long.That could probably be one reason how the great men of the past went on and on. Be that as it may, Cook will be remembered as a very good batsman from England. Not the Compton Dexter or Pieteren kind who will last in public memory long but someone who lent a decent backbone to England's batting in their most monumental beating of the old enemy in their land.

  • jmcilhinney on July 28, 2014, 4:51 GMT

    @Sljmh on (July 27, 2014, 23:29 GMT), I don't think you can really say that KP is a better player than Cook. There was a significant period where they were statistically all but identical. KP may be more exciting to watch when he's in full flow but that doesn't necessarily make him better. There are also genuine reasons for people to dislike KP. None of know all the details of what went on behind the scenes but there was obviously something, in fact many things, that were significant. While they probably did as much as each other to help the team, there's no doubt that KP did more to damage it. Let's not forget that Cook himself was one of the driving forces behind KP's reintegration before the India tour. More must have happened since then or they would have just left him out back then.

  • jmcilhinney on July 28, 2014, 4:46 GMT

    It's too early to say that Cook is back in form but the signs are good. It's often the case with an out-of-form batsman that you just need a bit of luck to get you going. Even a batsman in red-hot form can get out early but once you get settled it gets much easier. Cook was just never able to get settled. The drop here today gave him that chance and he took it. That time at the crease will be invaluable and hopefully will have boosted his confidence enough so that he can get back into form. I recall first seeing Cook on a tour in Australia and he was regularly getting out early the way he has been lately. During his long run of good form he has been very good at leaving those balls outside off early and giving himself time to get settled. That's going to be the key to his getting back in the runs: leaving those balls that he doesn't have to play at early in his innings. Sounds easy but may be one of the hardest things in cricket when things aren't going your way.

  • Sexysteven on July 28, 2014, 2:25 GMT

    I was never worried about cooks run drought he is to good not to find his form but this doesn't change the fact that he is acrap captain his tactical nouse is not upto it but seriously what's with these groundsmen producing dead pitches this one at age as bowl isn't much better then the one at Trentbridge good batsmen will bat all day on that pitch I think the groundsmen is trying to put the crowd and viewers to sleep not much in it for the bowlers again they say it will get quicker if it does it won't be by much only bad batting errors will force a result in this game otherwise another lame boring draw coming up that's good for the team ahead in this case it's India if England want to win this series they need result pitches

  • Biggus on July 28, 2014, 2:01 GMT

    As an Aussie I'm rather happy for Cook. I'm not a fan of his captaincy and consider it poor but I don't want to see him crucified. England have to find another leader but there's no obvious choice in sight. Bell seems a bit passive and I'm not sure about Broad's judgement. Until they can find one I do hope Cook makes enough runs to quieten the critics a bit. He does seem a decent enough bloke and he can bat, despite recent form. Are there no latter day Mike Brearleys in county cricket? Someone really needs to lift the burden of captaincy from his shoulders so he can get back to doing what he does best, making runs.

  • on July 28, 2014, 1:34 GMT

    No need to be sarcastic, Kimber. We all like Cook - he's a likeable guy and a world class batsman. I've been suffering with him for the last year and it was simply a relief to be able to watch him play cricket again! He may have got some help from India, but after he got to 30-odd it was definitely the old Cook out there, scoring at his usual 40-55 strike rate, playing the shots he wanted to. If he had got to a hundred I think we'd have seen more driving, but sadly it wasn't to be.

  • nade123 on July 28, 2014, 1:15 GMT

    Good for Cook that he fought through his failures. He has shown he has everything in him to be an all time great.

  • USAMAAJMAL678 on July 28, 2014, 0:35 GMT

    lol...even if they score 1000 runs on day 2...if they think they can get 20 indian wickets with bowlers like woakes and jordan than u can only laugh on them....

  • Sljmh on July 27, 2014, 23:29 GMT

    Westmorlandia - I agree that we should like him as one of England's best ever. But that said, KP is disliked by a vast majority and he is an even better player.

  • drdickdixon on July 27, 2014, 21:44 GMT

    Yes, we English public like him. And over the last few weeks I've seemingly seen a separation grow between the English public who want desperately him to succeed and a media who I can't help thinking half-want him to fail because it sells papers. Or maybe I'm just a cynic. Either way - I'd like to thank India's bowlers for their generosity today by giving Cook a few easy balls to hit.

  • Deuce03 on July 27, 2014, 21:08 GMT

    It's not just that we like him (although we do); it's that he's looked in need of a friend for a long time now. There's often an undercurrent in the media reporting that suggests that KP was the true people's champion, the entertainer, the popular maverick ousted so the ECB could put an android in charge, whether or not that's accurate - and it feels significant for the public (or at least the section of the public who turned up to this match) to give Cook such open, warm backing when he's most in need of it and everyone else (including KP) seems to be dogpiling on him. A lot of Cook's failings have seemed to be about confidence, so hopefully this - both the runs and the support - will give him some.

  • Hardy1 on July 27, 2014, 20:33 GMT

    "Finally there was a ball slow and terrible enough for Cook to bring out the true force of his family and smack it" Haha, brilliant!

  • mosey9uk on July 27, 2014, 19:11 GMT

    Finally Cook had some luck today!!!

  • Westmorlandia on July 27, 2014, 18:49 GMT

    Of course we like him. He's England's all-time top centurion and when he's in the runs we're winning and happy. So we owe him a lot, but we also like him scoring because it usually means we're winning.

  • Westmorlandia on July 27, 2014, 18:49 GMT

    Of course we like him. He's England's all-time top centurion and when he's in the runs we're winning and happy. So we owe him a lot, but we also like him scoring because it usually means we're winning.

  • mosey9uk on July 27, 2014, 19:11 GMT

    Finally Cook had some luck today!!!

  • Hardy1 on July 27, 2014, 20:33 GMT

    "Finally there was a ball slow and terrible enough for Cook to bring out the true force of his family and smack it" Haha, brilliant!

  • Deuce03 on July 27, 2014, 21:08 GMT

    It's not just that we like him (although we do); it's that he's looked in need of a friend for a long time now. There's often an undercurrent in the media reporting that suggests that KP was the true people's champion, the entertainer, the popular maverick ousted so the ECB could put an android in charge, whether or not that's accurate - and it feels significant for the public (or at least the section of the public who turned up to this match) to give Cook such open, warm backing when he's most in need of it and everyone else (including KP) seems to be dogpiling on him. A lot of Cook's failings have seemed to be about confidence, so hopefully this - both the runs and the support - will give him some.

  • drdickdixon on July 27, 2014, 21:44 GMT

    Yes, we English public like him. And over the last few weeks I've seemingly seen a separation grow between the English public who want desperately him to succeed and a media who I can't help thinking half-want him to fail because it sells papers. Or maybe I'm just a cynic. Either way - I'd like to thank India's bowlers for their generosity today by giving Cook a few easy balls to hit.

  • Sljmh on July 27, 2014, 23:29 GMT

    Westmorlandia - I agree that we should like him as one of England's best ever. But that said, KP is disliked by a vast majority and he is an even better player.

  • USAMAAJMAL678 on July 28, 2014, 0:35 GMT

    lol...even if they score 1000 runs on day 2...if they think they can get 20 indian wickets with bowlers like woakes and jordan than u can only laugh on them....

  • nade123 on July 28, 2014, 1:15 GMT

    Good for Cook that he fought through his failures. He has shown he has everything in him to be an all time great.

  • on July 28, 2014, 1:34 GMT

    No need to be sarcastic, Kimber. We all like Cook - he's a likeable guy and a world class batsman. I've been suffering with him for the last year and it was simply a relief to be able to watch him play cricket again! He may have got some help from India, but after he got to 30-odd it was definitely the old Cook out there, scoring at his usual 40-55 strike rate, playing the shots he wanted to. If he had got to a hundred I think we'd have seen more driving, but sadly it wasn't to be.

  • Biggus on July 28, 2014, 2:01 GMT

    As an Aussie I'm rather happy for Cook. I'm not a fan of his captaincy and consider it poor but I don't want to see him crucified. England have to find another leader but there's no obvious choice in sight. Bell seems a bit passive and I'm not sure about Broad's judgement. Until they can find one I do hope Cook makes enough runs to quieten the critics a bit. He does seem a decent enough bloke and he can bat, despite recent form. Are there no latter day Mike Brearleys in county cricket? Someone really needs to lift the burden of captaincy from his shoulders so he can get back to doing what he does best, making runs.