Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney, 5th day January 7, 2011

Cook's shining example


Alastair Cook walked away with the Compton-Miller medal following his recording-breaking Ashes series, but along with the 766 runs he also took a shine to Australia in another crucial fashion which helped England's bowlers dominate the opposition batsmen.

He and James Anderson were in charge of keeping the ball in ideal condition for reverse swing, which was a key factor in Australia's batting struggles. It was especially evident in Melbourne and Sydney where the ball started to reverse as early as the 15th over and meant another attacking weapon once the shine had worn off.

A perfect example came on the fourth afternoon at the SCG when Anderson produced a masterful six-over spell with the older ball to remove Usman Khawaja and Michael Clarke. It was reminiscent of how England's 2005 attack operated when Andrew Flintoff and Simon Jones terrorised the Australians with reverse.

Before the tour one of the main issues continually mentioned about the England attack was their ability to take wickets when the Kookaburra ball went soft. But David Saker, the Australian-born bowling coach, used his local knowledge while his plans were expertly implemented by Anderson, Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan. It was just one of many examples were England's meticulous eye for detail kept them ahead of Australia.

"Jimmy and I look after the ball. We banned [Paul] Collingwood from doing it a couple of years ago and have got it to swing a bit better," Cook said. "It's those little bits of attention to detail that have served us well over the last two years. If you can get the ball to do just a little bit, even on flat pitches, you can control the scoring a lot better."

And although he hadn't taken a lot notice of Australia's tactics involved in keeping the ball in good condition, Cook said England's hard work had paid off. "I wasn't paying too much attention to them, but we obviously got the ball moving better and for longer periods which helped us."

Clarke admitted England's performance with the ball had been a key difference. "They've shown us discipline and execution with the ball to be able to bowl in one area for a long period of time and make our batters play a false shot," he said. "Their bowlers have executed their plans outstandingly to all of our batters."

There were times during the final two Tests where Australia struggled to score at two-an-over after England replaced the wicket-taking, but expensive, Steven Finn with the steady Bresnan who proved a revelation on surfaces that helped develop reverse swing. Apart from when Mitchell Johnson flayed a half-century on the first day at Sydney there was never a time during the Christmas and New Year Tests where Andrew Strauss didn't have control in the field.

"After the last Ashes out here I thought the best way was to strangle the opposition and fortunately we had very accurate bowlers turn up," Strauss said. "For the bowlers to be able to bowl day-in day-out was an exceptional effort. We have good depth and we'll need it because the schedule is very tough."

However, despite his polished role in the field it was Cook's mountain of runs that did so much to help England to their 3-1 triumph. From saving the Brisbane Test with an unbeaten 235, to setting up Adelaide with 148, and ensuring there was no way back for Australia at Sydney with 189 it was a phenomenal performance from someone whose place was on the line last summer.

Cook is one of the few England players who will now get a decent break from international cricket as he isn't involved in either the Twenty20 or one-day internationals, but after soaking up this success knows he'll be asked to push himself again to reach such heights.

"It's one of our team ethoses," he said. "We've had an amazing two months but we've already said that we still want to improve. Andy Flower won't ever let us have an easy time. He'll demand that we get better. That will only hold us in good stead. If I can achieve what I just have again it would be amazing, but I honestly can't believe what I, and the team, have just done. We'll enjoy it and worry about tomorrow then."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Martin on January 9, 2011, 0:41 GMT

    Good to see one or two other Aus fans beginning to move on.... England certainly "upped the ante" but did not over-perform, this series has been coming - they have just moved up a gear that's all. Regarding Cook - agree with @The _Frame, this apocalyptic series; seeing Cook linked with the greatest batsmen ever, needs to be built upon. I think it will. There was just simply no comparison between the Australian batting and Englands - because Anderson and co were just too good. The plan was to dry up the Aus run-scoring which would lead to batsmen doing things they didn't want to do in order to get runs - thus getting out. I was amazed at how bad the Aus batting turned out to be at home - but it was the bowlers who kept them down. England have strength in depth - and future looks good due to smart visionary leadership and management. Hopefully my tickets for India @ Lords will come through soon - if you see me - I'll be the one with the big furry wombats! Anyone interested?

  • Marcio on January 8, 2011, 11:23 GMT

    Close ups of the second innings clearly showed one side of the ball tattered, with bits flaking off it, small chunks out of the surface, while the other side was shiny. Other teams need to find out how Eng does this and copy it. Obviously swing will be greatly assisted.

  • Nick on January 8, 2011, 5:17 GMT

    I can't agree more with the comments here around preparation. Not saying this would have changed the result of the series (the Innings defeats are simply too overwhelming to suggest change in preparation could have altered the result, only lessened the margin) - but full credit to England's far better preparation than Australia's.

    England came here, took the warm-up games serious, played their likely XI. Australia in the meantime had the toughest assignment in cricket (India in India) which hurt confidence and cost Hauritz his spot which ultimately made the Ashes harder. Then we played meaningless ODI mini series against Sri Lanka (no disrespect to SL) rather than focusing on the big job at hand, so close to the start of the series. India tour only posed more questions than answers which flowed into the Ashes.

    Not saying had Australia been better prepared we would have won - but at least we might have seen some closer matches, even closer days, closer sessions. Well done Poms!

  • Ashish on January 8, 2011, 4:28 GMT

    Does Somebody remember Ponting's Comment on Cook before the series started ? He said ''Cook is holding his place in the team by the skin of his teeth'' , i guess its ur turn now Mr Selfish PONTING. See ur own game first and then say about others. Dont be Overconfident which cost u the ASHES.

  • John on January 8, 2011, 1:30 GMT

    Our bowlers bowled horribly to Cook. For all the talk of Hughes and Smith having poor techniques, I think Cook's horrible fiddly one goes under the radar. I'm predicting that as soon as he encounters bowlers who are willing to pitch the ball up outside off, he's going to go right back to struggling and edging out over and over again. England's attack does look good though. Swann was (as predicted) overhyped and overrated. Same with Finn. Finn is quite promising but needs to pitch the ball up more and be way more consistent. If he doesn't he'll encounter the same problems as Mitchell Johnson. Broad however is another story. Personally I have never rated him and this tour did nothing to change that. He has no penetration, he's not very quick, he doesn't swing the ball, all he's good for is banging it in halfway down every ball. Tremlett is so much better, as is Bresnan. IMO, Tremlett is England's best bowler, and one of the best in the world at the moment.

  • pavan on January 7, 2011, 17:23 GMT

    This england team definitely have depth in their bowling.but cook`s performance is really awesome.He is a new mathew hayden under making..

  • Mohan on January 7, 2011, 15:57 GMT

    England, India, South Africa - have done exceedingly well. I don't see them dominating single-handedly though, as anyone can defeat anyone. The differences at the top are small.

    And guys, it is a matter of time before Aussies get back to their ruthless best.

  • Alex on January 7, 2011, 15:43 GMT

    i would love this to be the turning point for cook's career, and turn him into one of the best batsmen ever to walk the planet, but the next 24 months will tell if he has just had a purple patch or whether he has matured and improved upon recognition from the last 12 months. People will analyse him and try and get plans to get him out, i hope as an England supporter he can combat this and learn from the last 12 months that disipline has earnt him this achievment, not being technially perfect or flamboyant, but just accumlating runs at his own pace and knowing playing at balls outside off where he keep getting out over the past 18 months is now where he leaves 100% of the time, which has done him so well this ashes series.

  • Dummy4 on January 7, 2011, 13:32 GMT

    An art introduced by Shafraz Nawaz, Mastered by Imran & Wasim and hats off to England in reversing the ball when the pitch offered minimum wear characteristics. Absolutely fantastic, and this was what the likes of Wasim & Waqar were able to produce even on tracks that had minimum wear characteristics.

  • Suresh on January 7, 2011, 7:16 GMT

    This is called Stupid live in past glory, and to think that it will happen next time, next time etc and keep living on false hopes....guess the guys on the top at ACB don't understand one thing....survival of the the herd of cows that keep getting stronger whenever the weakest of them gets killed by the lions, and over a period of time the lions cant hunt anymore as no week cows are in the same way the other teams have got stronger over the period and Ausies like the week lions have lost the skill to hunt as their strong hunters have retired...also a succession plan was never introduced in the early 2000, how to replace old and aging lions...selection of natural species..don't understand why people can't take simple tips from Darwin's the WI exited the cricket arena in past 15+ yrs, i assume Ausies may's not how good you are it's how good the other teams are getting...hope the ACB top guys learns ASAP..

  • No featured comments at the moment.