South Africa v England, 4th Test, Centurion, 1st day January 22, 2016

Cook defends domestic scene after dream day

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Stephen Cook and Hashim Amla added 202 to blunt England's attack © Gallo Images

As South Africa's domestic structures come under scrutiny for their standard of cricket, Stephen Cook has proved that spending sufficient time in the set-up can still be prime players up for success at the top level.

Cook became the sixth South Africa batsman to score a century on Test debut with his 115 on the opening day against England in Centurion after making 415 runs in three Sunfoil Series matches this season to continue a strong domestic output.

"It's a good sounding ground," Cook said. "I think we need to be more patient and not think that after one or two good franchise performances, a guy will step up. A lot of the guys who have done well have come through that system and are hardened cricketers."

Cook is certainly one of them. Since playing Under-19 cricket with Hashim Amla, he waited 15 years to make an international appearance. In that time, he was picked for a South African A side in 2010, a sign that a promotion was imminent but it didn't come.

"As time wore on, I knew it was getting more difficult and less likely," he said. "But I never gave up hope. If I had given up on that hope, it would be have been difficult to carry on playing domestically. It would have just been retirement."

Instead he carried on believing he could become South Africa's own Chris Rogers. "There are a couple of guys who have inspired me, even someone like Neil McKenzie whose second coming was at a later age," Cook said. "I knew that it did happen to other people and it could happen to me."

Perhaps that's why now that the debut has finally come, everyone else seems a little more surprised than Cook himself. He has handled the call-up with maturity, so much so that he could assess the pitch and the opposition on a day that should have been all about him.

"The surface did play a little bit slowly but having played first-class cricket here, it should quicken up a little bit. It's not a coastal slow, it's a Highveld slow," he said. "I think early on, England searched for wickets a little bit more but later they went back into their normal patterns and they were quite patient."

Not nearly as patient as Cook has been has had to be though. With a century already under his belt it would understandable if he let himself ponder the future, but he was not getting carried away,

"I always thought to myself that it's about making your debut and playing for South Africa but it's about performing and scoring hundreds. I want to contribute to Proteas successes and victories. But I am very much a guy who looks after today. I've learnt that getting ahead of myself is the worst thing I can do."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • captainhansie on January 23, 2016, 7:43 GMT

    In cricket the numbers don't lie. 11000 First Class runs. Unlike these numbers which aren't exactly flash. http://www.espncricinfo.com/southafrica/content/player/48114.html

  • Katey on January 23, 2016, 5:43 GMT

    The measure of the man is the fact that he also has a law degree, as Firdose told us in an earlier article. It takes really serious effort and determination to complete an LLB and play professional sport at the same time. And get married! Congratulations to his wife too, for supporting him through all these years and many disappointments.

  • Sinhaya on January 23, 2016, 4:19 GMT

    Persistence pays off and age is no barrier! Congratulations Stephen Cook. Your perseverance over 15 years in the domestic circuit yielded dividends. I hope you last another 7 years in test cricket.

  • Proteas136 on January 23, 2016, 1:14 GMT

    Proteas forever, win, lose, draw, proteas forever

  • John-Orford on January 23, 2016, 1:13 GMT

    Well played Cook! He makes a good point on experience, but it still seems strange that a man with eleven thousand runs and a triple century can wait so long to be called for a Test. South Africa have had some good openers indeed, but however did van Zyl get in ahead of Cook?

  • FarmerWhite on January 22, 2016, 23:30 GMT

    Doesn't he look like his father. Jimmy scored 28 centuries for Somerset in three seasons. I once saw him score 190 odd in a day on a pudding of a pitch at Southchurch Park Southend. Watch out England!

  • Diaz54 on January 22, 2016, 23:28 GMT

    Well done Cook,,excellent performance. May it continue. Some times patience pays off. Support your country and system for all it shortfalls. At least you did not abandon and run away like some others. I salute you for that.

  • MAHafeez on January 22, 2016, 22:02 GMT

    My compliments and congratulations to Stephen Cook. It is never too late and what a debut as if he was playing his hundredth test. Great calm, composure and grit. Finally Proteas opening problem is solved. Elgar & Stephen should be given a long run along with QDK & Buvama. Try Merchant de Lange somewhere down the road. SA should also consider getting some fast bowling coaching from Wasim Akram, Waqar Younus or Sarfaraz Nawaz. They can coach bowlers like Rabada, Viljoen, Merchant de Lange the reverse swing and shearing toe yorkers.

  • funfastonelover on January 22, 2016, 21:45 GMT

    SO happy for for the guy. Just a wonderful story of persistence and reward. Credit must also go to CSA for putting aside their stubbornness and selecting someone "older", which is a step aside from tradition over the past 20 years.

  • 6pack on January 22, 2016, 20:13 GMT

    Sounds like a very mature guy. Happy for him, that he stuck around and got this opportunity and actually grabbed it and made it count.

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