Cook relief at ending hundred debate
Alastair Cook admitted he had to overcome the "denial" about struggling for runs over the last two years after scoring his first Test hundred in 23 months on the opening day in Barbados. Cook batted until the final over of the day for 105 off 266 balls, his 26th Test hundred, before edging a short delivery against Marlon Samuels after more than six hours of concentration.
Before Christmas, Cook was in line to captain England at the World Cup but after a difficult tour of Sri Lanka, where the team lost 5-2 and he did not pass fifty, he was sacked from that role. He had previously spoken about the hurt he felt at the decision and said that "disappointment" remained, but time has been a healer and he also used the vacant space in his winter to work extensively in the nets with his mentor Graham Gooch.
He scored a hundred in the facile warm-up match against St Kitts at the start of the West Indies tour, but a double failure in Antigua ensured talk of his form was never far away. However, twin fifties in Grenada meant he had made five half-centuries in eight innings going back to the series against India last year and now that elusive three figures has been ticked off again.
"Over the next year I've got the chance to focus on the five-day stuff and make sure I'm doing the right stuff time and time again," he told Sky Sports before the start of the second day in Barbados. "Over the last two year or so, I haven't scored the runs I'd like, a few technical things had crept in, you go into a bit of denial about them - 'nah they're fine, it's what it's always done' - and it's given me time to look at it. It's not huge changes, just a couple of things. I'm never the most technically pleasing batsman, so they'll always be there, so it's trying to make sure they aren't too big to stop me scoring runs.
"No matter how many runs you score you still have the belief and it was a matter of time before I got three figures. I did quite a lot of work with Goochie after being left out of the World Cup and felt really good in the Essex nets. In Antigua it didn't go so well but the way I've been hitting the ball in the last seven months in the red-ball stuff I did feel the score was there. But there's only so many times you can go into a press conference, as captain, which is asking when are you going to score the hundred. That's now gone and I can concentrate on what's important, runs at the top of the order and England winning."
Talking of the technical adjustments which his international break had allowed him to focus on - although he did not go as far as to say the one-day omission had been a good thing for him - Cook pinpointed trying to play the ball straighter. He picked out the shot that took him to a hundred - a clip off his toes wide of mid-on - as evidence of how his game was back in good working order.
"My shot to get the hundred was a good sign, although you should do that after 250 balls. Probably over the last year or so I might have clipped that behind square for one," he said. "It went quite a long way in front of square, so that's a good sign, but it's about being able to groove that so under pressure all you think about is the ball coming down.
"The World Cup is still disappointing, you always want to lead your country in a World Cup but that isn't going to happen. You dust yourself down; your pride gets dented and you wonder if you want to leave the house with the reaction you will get. Then you have a couple of weeks to get over that, and think what your next challenge is and what the best way is to prepare for that. You look at some technical stuff and I worked really hard from the beginning of February, two months of solid work. Naturally you are refreshed, but the technical work was more important."