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January 8, 2012
Series/Tournaments: England tour of United Arab Emirates
Alastair Cook admitted England's batsmen hadn't started their time in UAE as they'd hoped but wasn't overly concerned despite an unconvincing display against an ICC Combined XI in Dubai. Cook top-scored with 76 but no one else reached 20 as England struggled to 185 for 8 before Andrew Strauss declared.
For Cook it was his first competitive innings since the one-day series against India in October but for some of his team-mates, notably Strauss and Eoin Morgan, it has been much longer. Strauss last played in mid-September while Morgan suffered a shoulder injury at the start of the home one-day series against India.
"It wasn't ideal," Cook said. "I think we have to put that down to a little bit of rustiness. But credit to the opposition, especially Boyd [Rankin]. I thought he bowled very, very well. I think when you haven't batted outside for probably four months, with whites and a red ball, it does take a while to get into that rhythm. But it's not the end of the world."
However, Cook suggested that even if the top order had fired during the first two sessions, a declaration would have still been part of England's plan to keep the game open.
"I think, if we'd batted better, we still would have pulled out to set up a game. One of [coach] Andy Flower's big things is to try and win these preparation games to make them competitive for us," he said. "They do lack that intensity of Test cricket, of course. But we try to get as much competitive cricket into us as possible, so that when we come to the first morning of that Test match we're ready for it."
It has been a busy time of late for Cook who, while now concentrating on opening the batting for England, got married on New Year's Eve and joined the tour 36 hours later than his team-mates after being granted brief leave by the ECB.
"It was an amazing day - a bit too short with the celebrations afterwards," he said. "Thirty-six hours can't really be allowed to constitute a honeymoon. I hope at some stage in the next 12 months we'll get to go away. But it was very kind of the ECB to give me that time."
Meanwhile Boyd Rankin, who removed Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell during the afternoon session, knows that such performances can't do him any harm with a view to furthering his England ambitions. After this match he will join the Lions squad in Bangladesh and has gained good reviews on the county circuit for Warwickshire.
"Hopefully I've done myself a few favours and shown what I can do," he said. "It is a pretty flat pitch and I'm actually surprised how many wickets have fallen. We had plans against all the batsmen and we did well to put them under pressure. Hopefully we can get a few more runs in the morning and then we'll be confident of bowling them out."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Pataudi Jr caught a young English fan's fancy for his princely ways and his heroic batting