England v Australia, 2nd Investec Test, Lord's, 4th day July 21, 2013

Steely Cook has eyes on bigger prize


It was the lack of euphoria that should worry Australia most. While Alastair Cook admitted to some satisfaction and a few celebratory drinks in the dressing room following England's emphatic victory at Lord's, there was a steely resolve about him that spelled out a clear message: the job is not completed.

Cook's first Ashes experience as a player was a humbling experience. He was part of the team whitewashed in Australia in 2006-07 and has experienced enough lows in his career to know that moments like this are to be neither taken for granted or squandered. The Ashes have not yet been retained.

But it would be a brave man who bet against England at this stage. While they have won their last four Tests and are unbeaten in 10, Australia have lost their last six. It spoke volumes for how far Australia's reputation has fallen that, at a venue where they used to dominate, when Michael Clarke, interviewed on the outfield at the end of the match, said his side could still win the series, the crowd laughed. Not mocking laughter but genuine amusement. The idea seemed that ridiculous.

But Cook does not share that complacency. While he knows he is within touching distance of completing a series win in India and an Ashes victory within his first year as captain - England need only a draw from one of the final three Tests - he also acknowledged that his side had been pushed harder in this match than the end result indicated.

"It's certainly too early to talk about that," Cook said when asked about the possibility of a whitewashed series. "You only have to look at our dressing room to see how hard we've had to work to win these two games. You can think all you want about that, but we know how hard it is going to be the next few games.

"We won't be taking anything for granted or taking our foot off the gas. We won't be looking past the first hour at Old Trafford. That's not the way Andy Flower works and that's not the way this England side works.

"At certain moments in this game we were right under the cosh. It's huge credit to the lads that we've managed to pull through. Certainly being 30 for 3 on the first morning was not ideal and then losing wickets late on day one meant it was probably even-stevens. But we really upped our level with both ball and bat and wore them down."

That tactic of wearing down Australia was a theme of this match. Cook admitted his aim in declining to enforce the follow-on and keeping Australia out in the field for another 114 overs was not just to build a match-winning lead but to grind them down. He also paid credit to the batting coach, Graham Gooch, for instilling the discipline and desire to score big, match-defining centuries into the batting unit.

"That was the aim, without a doubt," Cook said. "We know how hard it is if you are in the field for such a long time. The half-hour we batted this morning was worth it.

"Graham Gooch, our teacher, has tried to breed into us that you have to bat for long periods of time and that if you do you get big scores. He bangs on about it all the time. It was his bread and butter and, over the last few years, we have managed to get bigger hundreds."

It was Joe Root's turn to score the big hundred in this match. Cook said he was not in the least surprised by Root's success and credited him as "an outstanding player".

"He's taken to international cricket extremely well," Cook said. "He's got the right character. It's a lot about technique, but he has the right character to succeed at Test cricket. He adapts his game to whatever is required. Here he scored a big hundred in a high pressure situation, so huge credit to him. He can be mighty proud of his performance."

Cook admitted the fitness of Kevin Pietersen, who suffered a calf strain during this game, was "a concern" ahead of the third Test, which begins on August 1. While there is no word from the England camp at present, there is a possibility that one of the potential replacements for Pietersen will be drafted into the Sussex side for the tour game against Australia that starts on Friday.

With the English domestic season currently dominated by T20 cricket, some of the candidates may feel in need of an extra first-class outing. Certainly Eoin Morgan, who has trained with the England squad this week having just received the all-clear to resume playing after a broken finger, would fit in that category though James Taylor, a more likely candidate, has been in first-class action recently.

But such concerns could wait a day or two for Cook and co. After another draining four days, England have earned most of the week off and will meet up again in Manchester on Sunday.

"It's a good dressing room to be in," Cook said. "We'll enjoy tonight, we'll recover well and we'll come back at Old Trafford and see how we can go about winning that game. We'll have a bit of time off and them come back ready to work extremely hard to win more games.

"It's special to win a Lord's Test against any side, but to beat Australia, well, these are times you cherish as a player. We have a winning habit now. We've played four Tests this summer and we've won all four. That's a good place to be."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on July 23, 2013, 11:40 GMT

    @Front-Foot-Lunge - Don't start putting the cart before the horse. ENG are not a champion side - champion sides are UNDISPUTED world #1's for several years - WI & AUS in recent times. SA is not yet a champion side, and yes, they are a better side than ENG, unless we want to make excuses or suffer from some convenient memory lapses. Unfortunately, OZ are currently a sub-standard side - they were just beaten 4-0 by IND, so it's not as if ENG are dismantling an ascendant side brimming with talent - without our fast/medium bowling stocks, we would be utterly hopeless (and they're the ones who habitually contribute more than 50% of our runs). So my advice would be to not get so carried away - after all, this weak team almost won the first test, 14 runs isn't much. As for captaincy, winners are grinners and all that. The real test will be the next time you face SA (in SA) - we'll see just how innovative a captain he is there, because Amla, Kallis, and co. will certainly test your bowlers!

  • John on July 23, 2013, 2:55 GMT

    @bringbackhaydos - The trouble is, Wade's wicket-keeping powers are average at best, and he is definitely prone to blunders - just look at last summer at home. Hussey retired of his own volition, it was the last thing that the selectors or ACB wanted, so what makes people think he would be willing to play again. He made his decision - one which has had massive consequences in the short term, so I don't want him back. Let him enjoy his retirement. Katich never should have been dropped, but I can't see the selectors making that call - he personified the tough, gritty, and uncompromising qualities that were once synonymous with Australian cricket, qualities that are sadly lacking in the current top order. Katich was always mishandled by the selectors. Anybody who thinks it's just a matter of a few quick fixes is kidding themselves - our batting stocks are very poor, so we can't just bring in new blood, because that won't work. We need to rebuild our domestic batting stocks from scratch.

  • Jo on July 22, 2013, 20:41 GMT

    @RoBoBoster: You got it right man... they can surely toil eng team...

  • Dummy4 on July 22, 2013, 20:25 GMT

    Graham Yallop wrote a book about a situation not worse than this... back then at least they had Rodney Hogg to depend on! And England were really not all that much better than Australia back then. Now its a different story... I just cannot see for the life of me how Australia can win a single test match from here. Just cant see it.

  • Robin on July 22, 2013, 19:20 GMT

    Starc, Siddle, Agar, Pattinson, Magoffin, Haddin, Bird, Faulkner, Lyon, Harris, Smith Try it and see what happens #lol

  • Cyril on July 22, 2013, 12:33 GMT

    @Muhammad Moosa - no the best batting line-up would include Katich and David Hussey both of whom are playing in England right now. There is also Stewart Robson of Middlesex (although he says he wants to play for England) who's run scoring in First-Class cricket makes a mockery of the records of Hughes, Khawaja and Warner, especially in English conditions.

    The best players are the best players, regardless of age or experience. I don't think anyone could successfully argue that Warner, Khawaja, Hughes, Cowan or Smith are better batsmen than Katich or David Hussey (or Robson). Like no-one will argue that young Root is not better than Compton or Carberry.

    CA have managed the transition of retiring batters so poorly. It would be strange to select three old batsmen for an Ashes series but the point is that they should have been introduced to the side gradually along with the younger men.

  • David on July 22, 2013, 12:04 GMT

    @ Shyamal Ganguly. A close look at Warner's record shows that he is a massively inconsistent batsman. In 62% of his innings he is dismissed under 30 runs. In 50%, under 25 runs. In 30% - once every 3.4 innings - under 10 runs. See the pattern? He has had 3 big innings, scoring centuries. His average calculated not including those innings is a paltry 28.

    Undoubtedly highly talented, Warner has to learn to bat with consistency, and to regularly build big innings. Right now Aus need solid, dependable batsmen who can knuckle down, occupy the crease and grind out runs. During their tenure as Aus' openers, Cowan performed that role far better than Warner. In 34 innings, Warner faced 1808 balls - ave 53 per innings. Cowan, in 30 innings (4 less,) faced 2382 balls - ave 79 per innings.

    Warner is not what Aus need under their current circumstances. Katich, Voges, Hussey - those are the players Aus need to put up a fight. And give Cowan his due, he's no superstar, but is a grafter.

  • ben on July 22, 2013, 11:08 GMT

    Great wicket-keeping Haddin for allowing Joe Root to score an extra 172 runs. Bring in Wade as keeper and a batsmen who has scored a recent test century. I would keep Haddin in as a batsmen though. But his wicket-keeping is and has always been sub-standard.

  • Dummy4 on July 22, 2013, 10:44 GMT

    Being a die hard admirer of Australian Cricket, it's difficult to see the Aussies go down without any resemblance of fighting they have been known for! Move to send Warner to SA for getting match practice defies any logic! Besides talent Warner is a spirited cricketer and he must be recalled before the next test! Though difficult but still the team must remain united and focused. If the batsmen score runs bowlers will definitely play their part, which they have already done. Steve Smith, if remains in the playing eleven, should come after Brad Hadin . But one thing is very certain if Australia wants to do well Michael Clark has to lead from the front and Shane Watson has to convert his good starts to bigger ones. Please bring back David Warner. We don't have the luxury to leave him out. They have to believe Poms are not invincible as they are made to look like!

  • Samuel on July 22, 2013, 10:18 GMT

    @whatawicket - England lost the toss in both games they won in India.